LFASL – Radio Show Mixed Tape

Can’t remember who I made this mixed tape for. It’s yours now. Maybe I’ll use it on the radio show on WRIU.org. Weds nights at 9pm ET

Herbie Nichols – House Party Starting (1955) – The dust that fell from Thelonious Monk’s chalk board was swept up and put to use by Nichols, a respected NYC pianist whose incredible sense of melody trumped his agile rhythmic approach. He made his greatest dates on Blue Note around this time. “House Party Starting” is one of those tunes you’ll have in your head forever.

Max Roach – Mr. X (1956) – Hard bop perfection. Aggressive, pithy, and loaded with swag. With saxophonist Sonny Rollins standing shoulder to shoulder with trumpeter Kenny Dorham, there’s plenty of firepower blowing from the speakers. But authority trumps flash in jazz, and the real hero is the bandleader/drummer. Listen to him control the action.

Charles Mingus – Eat That Chicken (1961) – The iconic composer/bassist was a poet when it came to gloom, and a fierce architect of turbulence, but Mingus loved him some down home gutbucket stomp, too – the blues is everywhere in his music. Hard to tell if this romp is an indictment of stereotypes or just a flat-out frolic.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk – The Inflated Tear (1968) – The maestro was known for playing multiple saxes at once, and wowing audiences (including rock audiences during this particular era) with his abilities. This is where his writing matched his playing, and the sense of dread couldn’t be more chilling.  

Betty Carter & Ray Bryant – Moonlight in Vermont (1955) – The virtuoso vocalist was in her mid-20s when she cut this with pianist Bryant. Between her abstract tone and the way she shapes the notes, it’s easy to forget that it’s a human voice driving the action. Somehow it reminds me of a romantic parallel to that Kirk sound above.

Marty Ehrlich – The All Told Alto Blues (1997) – This skilled boomer sax player learned the blues in St. Louis and then hit New York ready to expand the lingo into more expressionistic terrain, a la his mentors, Oliver Lake and Julius Hemphill. One of his most entertaining albums, Pliant Plaint, finds him swooping around joyously with his front-line partner Stan Strickland.

Scott Wendholt+Adam Kolker Quartet – Blue Chimneys (2014) – A great example of the way mainstream jazz sounds these days, at least in New York: seep swing, frontloaded lyricism, and a sense of frolic derived from absorbing the joys of free jazz. Two superb players, the trumpeter and saxophonist tackle their hero Monk’s chestnut and bounce loads of ideas around. The essence of jazz.

Various Artists: Conjure Rhythm in Philosophy (1985)  – NYC bandleader Kip Hanrahan had a big spike of critical success when he dropped his first records, Coup de Tete and Desire Develops an Edge, in the early 80s. The Bronx native is an organizer/lyricist rather than an instrumentalist, and his victories were built around a deeply insightful sense of groove, a contagious sense of intrigue and very cool Rolodex.  A few years later he turned his cast loose on the lyrics of writer/poet Ishmael Reed, and Conjure was heralded as yet another masterful move. DO check the entire album. For this mix, I peppered a few short tracks of Reed himself reading his work.

The Modern Jazz Quartet – Django (1956) – John Lewis’ timeless jewel, a lament that blends blues and Euro sensibilities into one of the bittersweet melodies in American music.

Abbey Lincoln – Mr. Tambourine Man (1996) – One of jazz’s most distinctive voices cuts to the heart of Dylan’s sidewalk reverie.  Lincoln takes every one of the master’s images to heart and sells them with more élan than anyone else who’s tried their hand at it. And listen to the band shift to accommodate all her nuances. Dylan’s lyrics often sound silly coming from another’s mouth. Abbey owns them.

Jason Moran – Big Stuff (2010) – The pianist started earning accolades early – as soon as he hit Greg Osby’s band it was obvious he was going all the way. He’s a killer technician and a guy with a vision. Now he’s the Artistic Director of the Kennedy Center besides being the leader of a trio deemed The Bandwagon. During performances of this Billie Holiday nugget (penned by Leonard Bernstein for his Fancy Free ballet) he occasionally spins her recording and has his trio weave in and out of it. Sage.

Dexter Gordon – The Jumpin’ Blues (1970) – Virile, melodic, inventive, precise. One of jazz’s tenor titans makes Jay McShann’s somewhat ordinary blues theme quite extraordinary.  

Various Artists: Conjure – St. Louis Women (1988) – More Reed. This one’s from Hanrahan’s second Conjure compilation, Cab Calloway Stands In For The Moon.

Bill Frisell – Little Jenny Dow (1992) – Stephen Foster’s second-tier ditty gets a big gush of joy from the remarkable guitar stylist, a guy who’s sound – whether plaintive or explosive – couldn’t sound more American. This is from his Have a Little Faith album where he also covers Madonna’s “Live to Tell.”

Jenny Scheinman – Johnsburgh, Illinois (2010) – Tom Waits’ life fully changed when he met his wife, Kathleen Brennan, and his valentine to her roots sounds wonderful being sung by Frisell associate Scheinman. She’s known as an intrepid violinist, but she’s also starting releasing albums of song songs. They’re pretty damn good.

Sonny Rollins – Valse Hot (1956) – With trumpeter Clifford Brown, the mighty saxophonist swoops and soars around a tune that’s as graceful as anything jazz. Propelled by Max Roach. See how the mid-5os is one of the threads in this list?

Lambert, Hendricks & Ross – What Am I Here For (1961)  –  The existential blues. The preeminent jazz vocal trio tackles an Ellington gem and ponders the big questions.

Tribalistas – Carnalismo (2002) – A Brazilian supergroup sorts – Marisa Monte, Arnaldo Antunes and Carlhinos Brown united to cut one album, and it’s a beaut from start to finish. This one has a music box simplicity.

Various Artists: Conjure – Judas (1986) – Reed again. Imagine Mr. Iscariot in a corduroy suit made in Poland and $30 shoes.

Charlie Haden Liberation Orchestra – Forever (2005) – The ever-determined bassist began his politically-charged in 1969, using Carla Bley’s arrangements to turn people’s heads. They connected intermittently through the years, and on this outing, delivered the same kind of passion that fueled them from the start.

Solo Ribot

MR plays FC on Bandcamp

Michael Moore + Paul Berner Amulet (RamBoy)

Michael Moore Bandcamp

Patricia Brennan Maquishti (Valley of Search)

Solemn and spacy auras mark the solo vibraphone program of the Mexico-born, New York-based improviser’s first album. Not only does each feel very much at home, but deeply comfortable with its mate. A glowing recital that casts introspection as an advantageous way to greet new listeners, Brennan’s debut becomes more and more captivating with repeated listens – an invitation to dodge the day’s barrage of stimuli and focus on a single voice. The instrument itself can enhance pensive episodes, but the mallet techniques and sustain devices that Brennan employs here mess with the “typical” sound of the vibes and marimba. And she wisely varies her temperaments. Nuanced shifts in texture and tempo give her 12 originals a sizable scope. “Magic Square” is a quick-paced blend of intersecting lines. “I Like For You To Be Still” is a prayer of serenity. “Away From Us” is an eloquent drone. And “Derrumbe De Turquesas” is stillness itself – an essay on all things pacific that nudges Maquishti onto a list of must-hear solo vibes discs that includes those by Walt Dickerson, Jay Hoggard and Bobby Naughton.

Patricia Brennan BandCamp

Patricia Brennan

Marc Copland + Dave Liebman Duo at Birdland

Dave Liebman’s been there, done that, and arrives with a scope that accounts for several important jazz epochs.  One of our most striking saxophonists, his authority is audible in every line he plays.  Introspection is key to Marc Copland’s esthetic, and though the pianist has positioned himself somewhat as a balladeer, his music ripples with a gentle vehemence.  Their connection is mighty. Just take a spin through Bookends (Hat Hut) to get a taste. They’re at Birdland TONIGHT. 7:30 pm ET 


Lament For a Straight Line Radio

Here’s the show run-down from Weds, March 10. We begin at 9 pm ET, streaming on WRIU.org. Best to use Tune-In, Radio Box, Sonos, etc. See you on March 17!

Richie Beirach  “Nardis”    EON  (ECM)    

Rajna Swaminathan  “Communities”   Of Agency and Abstraction   (Biophilia) 

Immanuel Wilkins    “Mary Turner – An American Tradition”    Omega   (Blue Note)

FOOD    “Death of Niger”  This Is Not a Miracle   (ECM)  

John Carter & Bobby Bradford  “Karen on Monday”   Seeking    (Revelation) 

Ralph Towner   “Dolomiti Dance”   My Foolish Heart    (ECM)

Out To Dinner  “Short Count”   Play On (Posi-Tone)

Ben Allison  “Third Rail”   Peace Pipe   (Palmetto)

Art Ensemble    “597-59”   Nice Guys    (ECM)   

Georgia Anne Muldrow  / Jyoti  “Mama, You can Bet”   Mama, You Can Bet (SomeothaShip Connect)

Herbie Nichols Trio  “Hangover Triangle”   (Blue Note)

Charlie Haden  “Dolphy’s Dance” The Montreal Tapes  (Verve)

Lambert Hendricks & Ross   “Hi-Fly”   The Hottest New Group In Jazz! (Columbia)  

JD Allen   “Jack’s Glass”   Bloom  (Savant)

The Bad Plus  “The Red Door”  Activate Infinity   (Edition)

Don Pullen    “The Dancer (for Diane McIntyre)”   Random Thoughts  (Blue Note)  

Baikida Carroll  “Left Jab”   Shadows and Reflections  (Black Saint)

Fred Hersch and Michael Moore  “The Sad Bird”  This We Know (Palmetto) 

Dave Douglas Quintet    “Beware of Doug”  Time Travel  (Greenleaf)  

Esperanza Spalding    “Humpty Dumpty”    Junjo   (Ayva)

Clusone Trio   “Baltimore Oriole”   Rara Arvis   (hat art)

Ornette Coleman “Jayne”  Something Else !!!    (Contemporary)

Ornette Coleman “Congeniality”   The Shape of Jazz to Come  (Atlantic)

Ornette Coleman “School Work”    Science Fiction (Columbia)  

Eric Reed at the Vanguard this Weekend

The looser he gets, the deeper he sounds. The pianist’s records are flecked with cagey moves draped in an off-the-cuff vibe that consistently yields to impulse. The through-line is swing, and whether he’s letting his drummer drive or getting purposefully percussive himself, the music is always jauntier than you think it’s going to be. With curves and feints galore, dude makes you sit up and take notice every few minutes. Saxophonist Stacey Dillard, bassist Dezron Douglas, and drummer McClenty Hunter are all on the team.



Lament For a Straight Line Radio

I started an improv-based Wednesday night radio show on WRIU.org. Keeping the brand tight and calling it Lament For a Straight Line. Started a couple weeks ago. If you’re in to jazz, please stop by from 9 -11 pm ET intermittent weeks. Here’s the playlist and download of the latest show.


Ralph Peterson “Inner Urge”  Triangular III   (RP)

Tom Rainey  “If I Should Lose You” Obligato (Intakt)

Ravi Coltrane  “The Last Circuit”   Blending Times  (Savoy)

Tony Malaby   “Floating Head”   Tamarindo  (Clean Feed)

Miles Davis   “The Pan Piper”  Sketches of Spain  (Columbia)

Russ Lossing   “Dexterity”  Phase II  (Fresh Sounds

Andrew Hill  “Ry Round” Time Lines (Blue Note)  

Robbie Lee & Mary Halvorson  “The Stuttering Note of Probably”  Seed Triangular  (New Amsterdam) 

Jackie McLean  “Formidable”  New Soil  (Blue Note)

Duke Ellington & Ray Brown  “Pitter Panther Patter”  This One’s For Blanton   (Pablo)

Anne Mette Iverson   “Dancing Butterflies”   Racing A Butterfly  (Brooklyn Underground)   

Paul Motian Chris Potter Jason Moran  “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” Lost in a Dream  (ECM)

Orrin Evans Trio “Bernie’s Tune” Grown Folks Music  (Criss Cross)

Chris Lightcap “Djali”  Superette  (Royal Potato Family)

Ben Monder    “Emily”     Day After Day  (Sunnyside)

Aaron Parks   “Hold Music”  Find the Way  (ECM)

Miguel Zenon & Luis Perdomo   “Este Hastio”  El Arte de Bolero (MZ)

John Coltrane “The Inch Worm”  Coltrane (Impulse!)

The Julius Hemphill Sextett  “Four Saints”  Fat Man and the Hard Blues  (Black Saint)

Betty Carter ft. Ray Bryant Trio “Moonlight In Vermont”  Meet  (Columbia)

Andrew Cyrille  “Lebroba”   Lebroba  (ECM)


V Is For Volcano – Ralph Peterson at Work

Been thinking about when Ralph first hit the scene, blowing minds with his precision and ardor. Here’s an ancient profile I wrote from the time when he was making his initial dent in town. There’s a very good chance that I will play some Ralph Blue Note music on WRIU.org radio on March 3, from 9 – 11 ET. Best to use TuneIn or Radio Box (on the RIU Listen Live page) or Sonos apps.

When the David Murray Quartet blew through Boston a few years ago, the tenor saxophonist’s blustery phrases sounded like bales of hay being shot from a cannon. Yet when the blitzkrieg ended there was only one question coming out of everyone’s mind: ‘who’s that drummer?’

“Yeah, that was high energy stuff,” recalls the percussionist in question, Ralph Peterson. “Whatever you’ve got – fresh, strong, new, David says ‘bring it on.’ It’s really physical music. Afterwards, I felt like I had been in a bar fight.”

Peterson’s two records as a leader, V and Triangular, both on Blue Note, are equally physical, but the drummer doesn’t seem the least bit fatigued. On paper, his music fits right into the late 80s acoustic mainstream spins on time-tested hard bop. But while Peterson deals in overt tradition, he himself has plenty of fresh, strong and new to dispense. This stuff is all about rugged action, rife with tiny jabs that wind up having the power of a roundhouse right.

“I’ve been described as aggressive on more than one occasion,” concedes the muscular 27-year-old, but I try to keep a certain amount of logic to my aggression. To play with conviction is what I’m after. Sometimes you hear musicians playing well, but there’s a tentative quality, a hesitancy to their spirit. In the last couple of years, I’ve gotten my focus down. You can pretty much make any note work if you play it with enough conviction.”

“We’re trying to steer away from the expected Marsalisian sound that people are set up for when they hear the word ‘quintet’ these days,” he goes on. “Wynton and those guys did that, and they did it well, too. Why get close to what they do?”

Peterson distills hard bop to two of its essential elements: tension and release. He’s a dynamics addict, a quick change artist. “I want people to think they know what’s coming around the corner, then completely blow them off their feet.”

Peterson’s trap work — a mix of rambunctiousness and finesse — earned him work with inners and outers John Faddis, Henry Threadgill, Craig Harris, and Walter Bishop Jr. to name a few. Splashy like Elvin, thunderous like Max, he makes individual licks stand on their own; you can hear all the raindrops fall. The point seems simple enough, but he wants to remind us: the cymbals are made of metal, the drums of skin and wood.

“If you confine yourself to rhythm as a drummer, you’re missing out on much of the music,” he observes. “There are so many pitches, tones and timbres the set makes available. You just have to go looking for them. When I was at Rutgers, Philly Joe Jones taught me that there were six or seven sounds you could get out of one cymbal – that stuff messed up my mind – fascinating.

Most of these tunes were written back then as Peterson, who also plays trumpet and piano, relies on a compositional sense inspired by the knotty soul of mid-60s jazz. Volition, an upcoming record by his quintet, investigates much of the same area, but it’s Triangular, a trio date with pianist Geri Allen and bassist Essiet Okon Essiet, that demonstrates just how rollicking Peterson can make traditional moves.

Piano trios are often seen as a nice way of getting novice listeners into jazz. “That’s the word! You used the word!,” blurts Peterson. “Nice! I wanted this trio to have a not-so-nice quality so it would make listeners squirm.” Not just listeners. Accompanists, too. “I pushed them because I’m always pushing myself,” Peterson says. “That’s where creativity lies: out on the edge of control.”

As a result, Allen never sounded so thrillingly visceral, while newcomer Essiet provides an escalator ride through the melodies. They both looked at the boss in disbelief while recording the album. “Kind of like, ‘Do you know what you’re doing with this thing?’ But in hindsight they realize that I wasn’t being reckless, I was just trying to be true to the concept.”

Peterson’s next recording promises to take the music to a hard left. Further, his current trio is now a vibes/bass/drum group. “Mix your formats and you will eliminate the tendency to recapture what you did before,” he reasons. “Change the context and you will force yourself out of the realm of cliché. It’s just like the playing itself: more than one climax, a series of ups and downs; it’s teamwork.

Petersons sign is Taurus, so you don’t have to look hard to see where his bullish approach comes from. Yet his constant talk of teamwork isn’t just promo-speak. His bands really sound like bands: finely tuned, totally aware.

“I’m concerned that people don’t hear my records as a drummer’s records, he declares. “To me, Volition doesn’t sound like anybody’s record, therefore it sounds like everybody’s record. That’s the same sense I get listening to Miles at the Plugged nickel, Ornette’s “Lonely Woman,” McCoy’s trio record with Tootie Heath. I’m all for cracking apart the notion that drummers belong in the background. I’m looking to be musical. That’s just common sense.”


Dr. Lonnie Smith Breathe (Blue Note)

The stylistic parameters of “organ jazz” are so cemented at this late date, it’s easy to believe that gritty grooves and churchy exclamations are the sole elements of a B-3 outfit’s presentation. The 78-year-old Hammond maestro’s esthetic includes those essentials of course, and has from the get-go: check the offhand fervor of his spin on Little Walter’s “My Babe” from his 1967 debut, ‘Finger Lickin’ Good Soul Organ.’ But Smith usually has something up his sleeve when it comes to enhancing the predictable approach of greasy vamps and swinging funk, and this live album has a handful of gambits to further the hopped-up soul strut we’ve come to expect from the form.

Recorded at New York’s Jazz Standard in 2017, a bandstand immediacy courses through the performance. The shows were part of a 75th birthday bash, and wisely the good doctor surrounded himself with a feisty horn section. The expanded palette widens the music’s scope. Frenetic blasts of punctuation, like those that adorn “Track 9,” are so fierce it’s easy to forget this is an organ record. John Ellis, one of our most expressive saxophonists, tears it up on tenor and then Sean Jones and Jason Marshall throw gasoline on his fire. For nine minutes it sounds like Tower of Power at the Plugged Nickel.  

The set’s ballad is “World Weeps.” While managing to wax both ominous and vulnerable, it delivers opportunities for guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and the leader himself to develop valuable thoughts in a rather short time frame. The precision of the band’s interplay shines here, and both solos build incrementally, calibrating drama with an expert touch. The act of patiently unpacking an idea just might be Smith’s superpower. Dynamics rule, mere titillation is banished. 

That doesn’t mean the music isn’t fiery. “Bright Eyes” and “Too Damn Hot” can be both buoyant and boisterous  – refinement is central to the equation, especially when drummer Jonathan Blake nurtures a series of syncopation tacks on “Epistrophy”(he in fact burns throughout the program), and even the hymn by vocalist Alicia Olatuja is sparked by an enviable ardor. 

The true surprises are the disc’s bookends, two studio features by Iggy Pop that finds the rock icon trading his “TV Eye” yelp for a plush bari murmur. Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together” is as slinky as you’d hope, and Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman,” in the organist’s book since a 1969 live album recorded in Atlantic City, delivers the shrugged-off savvy that’s long been key to Pop’s persona. Oddly, they integrate nicely with the live tracks. “Everybody’s hustlin’ just to have a little scene,” purrs Ig. Dr. Smith has definitely found his.  


Dr. Lonnie Smith

Blue Note Records