9 Outstanding Live Jazz Recordings

Work and blogging

As many of you know, this really isn’t my day job. I work in a completely unrelated industry. Recently I’ve traveled on average 2-3 times per week, so my blogging has taken a back seat.

I’ll still try to get a blog post done every two weeks. The best you can do, instead of having to check back on my somewhat unreliable posting schedule, is just to sign up with your email on the right, so new updates will come to your inbox, or follow me on WordPress. Like this you don’t miss any update.

Live Jazz Recordings

Furthermore, given my workload, I’ll shamelessly steal from my own forum post here at Computer Audiophile, where I post quite regularly on music, and less so on audio gear.

I have previously written about my 25 Essential Jazz albums, but had never done a specific post on live jazz albums. Triggered by “Route66″‘s question, I went through my album library and had a look at which live albums I can particularly recommend. The  OP was particularly interested in small Jazz club-type venues, so this further limited the selection to the following 9 albums. Some of them I’ve written about previously, some of them are new to this blog.

Cannonball Adderley: Mercy Mercy Mercy – Live At “The Club” (Capitol 1966)

 

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet Mercy, Mercy, Mercy Live at "The Club" Capitol / Blue Note 1966

I’ve previously written about this album here, and it is worth having already for the outstanding title track.

 

Bill Evans Trio: Waltz for Debby (1961)

I’ll mention Bill Evans twice on this blog post. Bill Evans during his career had three major trios (see also this blog post on his middle trio). He started, after the work with Miles Davis, with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. Unfortunately, LaFaro passed away in an accident shortly after the album below was recorded. Many still consider this early trio his best. I don’t necessarily agree, as I really love his later trios very much as well.

Bill Evans Trio Waltz for Debby

 

Waltz for Debby is part of several recordings taken by the trio live at the Village Vanguard. The Village Vanguard is one of the legendary NYC jazz clubs that is still open today. If you want more of it, you can also get The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings 1961 box, which includes the titles above. You’ll see it popping up a number of times below in this post.

The advantage of getting the individual Waltz For Debby album is that you can try to find one of the many audiophile remasters. I’ll leave it to others to debate which of the several available remasters is the best, and will recommend the HDtracks version which is already pretty good. Musically in any case, this album, is an absolute must have and really helped define the category of the Jazz Piano Trio.

My Rating: 5 stars

 

Bill Evans Trio: Consecration

Bill Evans Consecration The Final Recordings Part 2 Live At The Keystone Korner September 1980 Fantasy Recordings

Consecration is already mentioned as part of my 25 Essential Jazz albums. This is Evans’s latest trio, and actually his very final recording before his early passing.

Do I prefer Consecration over Waltz For Debby, or vice versa? Why decide? Get both!

Brad Mehldau: The Art of the Trio Vol. 2 – Live At the Village Vanguard (1991)

This one is a new addition to the blog.

Brad Mehldau Live At The Village Vanguard The Art Of The Trio Volume Two

 

I’ve written about my love/hate relationship with Brad Mehldau several times (see here for example), but Vol. 3 of his early series The Art Of The Trio is listed in my 25 Essential Jazz albums. This live album is not as good as the studio vol. 3, but still very much worth having. Especially for Moon River, a particular favorite of mine. Recordede at the same Village Vanguard as the Bill Evans 30 years earlier.

My rating: 4 stars

The Jazz Messengers At The Cafe Bohemia Vol. 1 (1955)

The Jazz Messengers At The Café Bohemia Vol. 1

I haven’t written about Hard Bop for a long time. Actually, I haven’t even listened to Hard Bop a lot recently, which is a pity, as this is one of my favorite genres.

I’ve even done an entire mini-series on the Jazz Messengers and their several alumni.

The above 1955 album is one of those who started it all. Look at the line-up. Horace Silver, Hank Mobley, Kenny Dorham. All of these had successful solo careers after which (check out my blog for recommended albums in the above mini series).

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any new audiophile remastering of this album, so you can probably just as well go with the regular CD remastering by Rudy Van Gelder (although I’m not a particular fan of his remasters in general).

My rating: 4 stars

Giovanni Mirabassi: Live At the Blue Note Tokyo (2010)

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Giovanni Mirabassi was also mentioned several times on this blog, including as part of my 25 Essential Jazz albums.

This album, recorded live in Toyko, is not my absolute favorite, but still a very good performance. What is nice about it that the trio takes time for each track, often 8-10 minutes, allowing melodic development and soloing.

My rating: 4 stars

Christian McBride Trio: Live At The Village Vanguard (2015)

The Christian McBride Trio Live At The Village Vanguard 2015 MackAvenue

No, I haven’t selected albums simply on the fact that they were recorded at the Vanguard. It is just simply a very popular recording spot.

I’ve written about this album previously, you’ll find my review here.

 

Enrico Pieranunzi: Live At The Village Vanguard (2013)

Yes, also Pieranunzi has recorded at the Vanguard in 2010.

I’ve written previously that I consider Pieranunzi as really following the Bill Evans heritage.

Enrico Pieranunzi with Marc Johnson Paul Motian Live At The Village Vanguard

And look at the lineup here: Paul Motian was already the drummer on Waltz For Debby above, and Marc Johnson was the bass player in Evans’ middle quartet (but has later played a lot with Pieranunzi).

This is a very good live album, but doesn’t get to the intensity swing-wise of his master. It’s very much worth having still. Pieranunzi really develops the lyrical side of Bill Evans even further.

Check out this video, how Paul Motian called up Pieranunzi for this one week live gig. The text is in Italian, but you get enough excerpts of the music to get a good idea.

 

My rating: 4 stars

 

Michael Wollny Trio: Weltentraum Concert Edition – Live At The Unterfahrt

Michael Wollny Trio Live At The Unterfahrt Weltentraum Concert Edition ACT 2014 Tim Lefebvre Eric Schaefer

I’ve listed Weltentraum among my 25 Essential Jazz albums.

Michael Wollny is one of the most creative pianists we have today. This is the live album of Weltentraum, recorded at the Unterfahrt jazz club in Munich in 2014. This album is really as good as the studio one, in many respects even better. Very much worth having.

My rating: 5 stars

 

You can find the newly listed albums here, for links to the other albums please go to the original blog post.

Evans Waltz For Debby: here (HDTracks)

Brad Mehldau: here (Qobuz)

Jazz Messengers: here (Qobuz)

Giovanni Mirabassi: here (Qobuz)

Enrico Pieranunzi: here (Camjazz)

Michael Wollny: here (Qobuz)

 

 

Musicophile’s 25 Essential Jazz Albums – Part I

To be fair, I could never live with only 25 albums, I’d be totally bored at some point. There is too much great music out there to discover, that’s why I’m purchasing a lot of new music every month.

But if I had to choose my personal favorite 25 Jazz artists and list one of their albums (didn’t go for top 10 as this would have really been TOO narrow), I’d go for these. I wouldn’t call this a “must have” list, this is obviously completely subjective, as all of the rest of my blog. But you wouldn’t go wrong in checking them out and see if you like them. There are some obvious candidates in there that you’ll find in every TopXX list out there (I checked many, to make sure I don’t miss anything), some hopefully less obvious personal choices as well. They range from 1958 to 2013.

By the way, I’m cheating a bit, I’m talking about 25 albums, not CDs, so you’ll find a couple of multi-CD albums in there. In the age of the digital download, it doesn’t make any difference anyhow.

The ordering is completely random, I just numbered them so I don’t lose track. As said before, I try to limit to one album per artists, as you could easily build a list of top 25 albums with Keith Jarrett or Bill Evans on their own (maybe this will come in a future post).

This is part I, with no. 1-12, part II can be found here.

1. Keith Jarrett –  At The Blue Note (1995)

Keith Jarrett At The Blue Note The Complete Recordings ECM 1995

Well, obviously my selection had to have a Keith Jarrett album. As I wanted to choose only one per artist, I’m really under pressure here. With so many good Jarrett trio albums out there, which one do you choose? This choice is a bit arbitrary, and could change tomorrow, but I find myself to go back to this album very very often. However, it could have been easily as well Standards Live, Standards in Norway, Whisper Not, or Inside Out.

This album is mastered by the same Jan Erik Kongshaug, that also is responsible for Badgers and other Beings by Helge Lien (see my review here) and many other audiophile treasures.

 2. Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue (1959)

Milles Davis Kind of Blue 24 192 remaster Stereo Blue Note

Sorry, BIG no brainer alarm here. But this is just so freakingly good (thanks probably mainly to Bill Evans), that no matter how often you listen, you just get drawn into the atmosphere over and over again.

Plus, the recent 24/192 remaster (available in mono or stereo, I personally prefer the stereo version) sounds so great that you think you’re sitting in the studio with the guys.

3. Giovanni Mirabassi –  Architectures (1998)

Giovanni Mirabassi Architectures

I haven’t written about Mirabassi on my blog yet. What a shame. Will rectify that soon. In the meantime, this is trio jazz at its best (a guitar is added in some songs).

Mirabassi is still one of my favorite musicians, especially live, however, I still prefer his earlier albums to the more recent ones. Again, more to come.

4. Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder (1963)

Lee Morgan The Sidewinder 24/192 Blue Note

Already reviewed here. Another mega-seller, but nothing wrong with that.

5. Bill Evans – Consecration – The Final Recordings Part 2 (1980)

Bill Evans Consecration The Final Recordings Part 2 Live At The Keystone Korner September 1980 Fantasy Recordings

Bill Evans, another genius, and I haven’t even mentioned him on this blog yet (except for above in the Kind of Blue entry). What a sin. Again, plenty of outstanding albums to choose from. Which trio? LaFaro and Motian, Gomez and Morell, or Johnson and LaBarbera? Well, all are great, so hard to judge. I nevertheless have a particularly strong relationship to this album, as a 1 CD compilation of this last concert series of his was among my first even Bill Evans albums.

Is it really necessary to purchase this 8CD box? And to e.g. get 5 different versions of “Your Story” (the album has takes from different days, so quite some repeats in the playlist). And it get’s even worse, “The Last Waltz” is another 8CD box from the same setting. Well, maybe not universally. And there is obviously the great tragedy of knowing that shortly after these concerts this genius was finally killed by his drug habits.

But when you listen to these recordings, there is so much intimacy, so much creativity, so much melancholy, that you can’t help but be fully absorbed by the music.

Anyway, more to come on Bill Evans on my blog in the future.

6. Horace Silver: Song For My Father (1964)

Horace Silver Song For My Father 24 192 BLue Note

Already reviewed here.

7. Brad Mehldau: The Art Of The Trio Vol. 3 (1998)

Brad Mehldau Art of the Trio vol 3 Songs Warner Jazz 1998

I’m not a universal fan of Brad Mehldau, there are a lot of albums I just cannot stand at all (e.g. Largo), but this one is trio jazz at it’s best.

8. Nina Simone: Little Girl Blue or “Jazz As Played In An Exclusive Side Street Club” (1958)

Nina Simone Little Girl Blue 1958 Bethlehem

Her outstanding debut, with many amazing songs.

9. Triosence: Turning points (2013)

Triosence Turning Points 2013 Sony Classical

Already reviewed here

10. Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage (1965)

Herbie Hancock Maiden Voyage 24 192 Blue Note

My favorite Hancock album for the famous title track and Dolphin Dance.

11. John Coltrane – My Favorite Things (1961)

John Coltrane My Favorite Things

Well, obviously Coltrane had to be there. I hesitated quite a bit if I should nominate A Love Supreme or Giant Steps, but somehow this album personally touches me even more, both for the title track and one of my favorite versions of Summertime.

12. Shai Maestro – Shai Maestro Trio (2011)

Shai Maestro Trio Laborie Jazz 2012

Already reviewed here. 

As said before, Part II with nos. 13-25 can be found here.

Download Sources

Keith Jarrett At The Blue Note: here  (Qobuz) and here

Kind of Blue: Here (Qobuz) and here (HDTracks)

Architectures: unfortunately, hard to find as download. You can buy the CD here

Consecration: here (Qobuz)

Sidewinder: here (Qobuz)

Brad Mehldau Songs: here (Qobuz)

Song for My Father: here (Qobuz)

Nina Simone: here (Eclassical)

Triosence: here (Qobuz)

Maiden Voyage: here (Qobuz)

My Favorite Things: here (HDTracks)

Shai Maestro: here (Highresaudio)

The Legacy of the Jazz Messengers (3): Joe Henderson – Inner Urge

Not properly speaking a Jazz Messenger Alumni

Putting Joe Henderson into my little Jazz Messengers mini series is probably slightly incorrect, I don’t think Henderson ever played directly at the Jazz Messengers, but he started playing quite a bit with Kenny Dorham, another Messengers alumni, and he also contributes to my previously mentioned Horace Silver album “Song for my Father“, and the hardbop classic “Sidewinder” by Lee Morgan (more about this later).

Joe Henderson

I nevertheless wanted to mention him here, as I believe he was heavily influenced by his first real gigs, including those above (although Henderson himself cited mainly Charlie Parker as a lead influence). He went on rather quickly to lead several albums on Blue Note. Funnily enough, apparently he was “discovered” by another great saxophone player Dexter Gordon (who I personally never particularly liked, as a side note).

The other reason for bringing him up here is that I had the pleasure of hearing 3 out of four of the musicians on the album this post will eventually get to live (albeit all individually) including Henderson himself at a gig in the late 80s in Hamburg, and Elvin Jones and McCoyTyner in the early 2000s in Paris. So there’s a (if tiny) personal connection here.

Like Hank Mobley, Henderson is maybe not one of the real A-league saxophonists, but still better known compared to the former, probably also due to the fact that he continued recording albums up to the 1990s.

Joe Henderson’s greatest albums in my humble (is it really humble? hopefully) opinion, are all on Blue Note, from a short period between 1963 and 1966 (notice a pattern here, how glorious these days were for Jazz…). Namely, Page One, In ‘n Out, Mode For Joe, and, obviously:

Inner Urge

MMBST-84189-2

Why this album? Well, being a pianist (well that’s stretching it, but let’s rather say having played the piano), my answer is called McCoy Tyner. He really does an outstanding job on this album, in the beautiful combination with Elvin Jones on drums. These two obviously knew each other well from playing with Coltrane, including on the legendary “A Love Supreme“.

The title track – Amazing

There is a very simple reason to buy the album: the eponymous title track. Nearly 12 minutes of tension and harmonic complexity that reminds me in some places of the above mentioned “A Love Supreme“. 5 stars plus for this track only.

The other tracks, with the exception of the great “El Barrio“, where Elvin Jones builds a mesmerizing latin groove, are more fillers. Isotope is swinging nicely, but not very memorable, Night and Day is a bit light for an album ending (but Jones drums manage to keep it interesting), but overall never mind, this album is worth purchasing for two tracks only. Or if you have a download site that allows purchasing by track, stick to 1 and 3 and you’re all set.

Overall rating: 5 stars (I’m a bit hesitant here and probably should rather give 4.5 stars, but I don’t want to dilute my rating system even further and just decide that the title tracks on its own is worth the 5 stars).

The Legacy of the Jazz Messengers (1): Song For My Father – Horace Silver

Hard Bop

I’m not going to win a price on originality here writing about one of the greatest Jazz groups in history, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. They’ve been praised over and over again over the last 50 years.

But never mind, my purpose was to write about music I really like, and the hard-bop era is one of my favorites in the entire Jazz history. And probably hard-bop wouldn’t be hard bop without the Jazz Messengers. Therefore, I’m starting this little mini-series about the Jazz Messengers and their spin-offs.

The Jazz Messengers

Starting in 1954, this group around the drummer Art Blakey was composed of an ever-changing group musicians that would pretty much all go on great solo careers, including, little known fact, Keith Jarrett at some point (in a way you could say Art Blakey discovered Jarrett). Other outstanding musicians include Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Benny Golson, Clifford Brown, Curtis Fuller. By the way, most Jazz Messengers albums are worth having, including At the Café Bohemia, A Night In Tunisia, Caravan, and obviously, Moanin’.

The original quintet from 1954 was composed of Horace Silver, Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, and Doug Watkins. One of my next entries in this series will be about Mobley, who has done some great albums. But given that I have a piano background, let me start with the pianists of the group, Horace Silver.

Horace Silver

And let me start immediately by what is probably his greatest album, Song For My Father.

5099963650457_600

Recorded in 1963 and 1964, and released in 1965, this album falls around the end of the hard bop period, before most  Jazz musicians moved on to “Free Jazz” and “Fusion” (to me an absolute dead-end in music), and it took until the 1980s to get back to a some form of revival of hard bop. (Some say the sale of the Blue Note label in 1966 also significantly contributed to the decline of hard bop).

On this album, Horace Silver records with two groups of musicians, the first one includes Carmel Jones, Teddy Smith, Roger Humphries and the great Joe Henderson (tracks 1, 2, 4, and 5), the second one being Blue Mitchell, Gene Taylor and Roy Brooks. By the way, the initial group of Horace Silver in his earlier recordings were pretty much “stolen” directly from the 1954 Jazz Messengers group (only Art Blakey stayed on).

As usual, I’m not going to write a track by track review of an album, I usually find those rather tedious to read, especially in the internet age where everybody can just listen to the tracks anyhow.

Let me just point out my two favorite tracks on the album, which are the title track, and Calcutta Cutie. Both songs exceed 7 minutes, a great duration for a jazz song because it really allows for several solos that are really outstanding. But luckily, on this great album, even if you have the CD version with some bonus tracks, there are really no weak tracks.

My rating: 5 stars

Other Horace silver albums that are worth exploring include Blowing the Blues Away, Horace-Scope, The Tokyo Blues, and The Cape Verdean Blues (notice a lot of blues in there? well, that’s probably what’s so special about Silver in the first place, his bluesy tone).

Get the 24/192 remaster

Usually I don’t intend to write about technical details here, this blog should be dedicated to music, but if you intend to purchase this album please don’t buy the CD, especially not the RVG remaster series.

The most recent 2012 remaster is released in 24 bit and 192khz format and is available on several sites including Qobuz, HDTracks and ProStudioMasters. Even if you don’t believe in the benefits of higher resolution than CD, the remastering of the recording per-se is way better than all previous versions I’m aware off.