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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

CD Review - Massive

The Jazz Jamaica All Stars | Dune
If one were to award points for boldness and thinking outside the box, the Jazz Jamaica All Stars would rank high by any measure. The All Stars, a large group of (mostly) Brits, several with Caribbean or African roots, led by Jamaican bassist Gary Crosby, have something to prove—that almost any music can be adapted to suit the rhythmic and harmonic temperament of the West Indies. “My aim,” says Crosby, “is for the music of the Caribbean… to become a permanent part of the improvising musician's armory. …What we are doing is showing that this music can stand up there next to anything else….”

And so it is that on the All Stars' debut album, the aptly named Massive, the ensemble not only performs popular West Indian themes but reshapes jazz standards by Herbie Hancock (”Dolphin Dance”) and Wayne Shorter (”Footprints”), Burt Bacharach's pop tune “Walk on By,” and music from Hollywood (”Again,” a medley from The Godfather and Al Capone). If the evidence presented here can be judged conclusive, the All Stars have easily accomplished their purpose.

One's response, of course, will rest largely on his or her affinity for West Indian rhythms, which predominate throughout the bubbly and heated studio session. The music resides quite comfortably within the big band idiom, and the All Stars perform it with tastefulness and enthusiasm. Vocalist Juliet Roberts is heard on three selections—”Walk on By,” the Jamaican hit “My Boy Lollipop,” and “Again,” a lovely but seldom-heard Alfred Newman composition from the 1947 film Roadhouse. Nearly every member of the large ensemble is given one or more chances to solo, and everyone earns high marks, especially saxophonists Andy Sheppard, Soweto Kinch and Denys Baptiste, trumpeters Kevin Robinson and Guy Barker, trombonists Dennis Rollins and Barnaby Dickinson, pianist Alex Wilson and guitarist Alan Weekes.

If there's a word to describe Jamaican music, that word could be irrepressible. It's inherently happy music, almost impossible to experience without tapping your feet and smiling broadly. The Jazz Jamaica All Stars exemplify the carefree spirit of the Caribbean, playing with an ardent esprit de corps that makes their first album together a pleasure to hear.

~ Jack Bowers

Monday, October 25, 2004

Jamaica Swing book excerpt #1

"There's a great trumpeter over in England: a guy who's got soul and originality and, above all, who's not afraid to blow with fire."

- Miles Davis

Coming from one who was himself universally acknowledged as one of the most important musicians of the 20th Century, Miles Davis' endorsement of Jamaican trumpeter Dizzy Reece can hardly be faint praise.

Indeed, the Kingston native is widely celebrated in his own right and not just for his brilliance on the trumpet. He has additionally functioned as a journalist, prose writer, (having written abstractions, poems, short stories, and screenplays) and even as a filmmaker and painter. His educational publications on the jazz idiom include Contemporary Jazz Drum Suite (1966), Basic Jazz Bass Rhythm And Blues; Swinging the Scales and other method books. (1997); Encyclopedia of Black Brass/Black Reeds- 1860-1999. His paintings have been exhibited with his music. Reece's overriding philosophy is "without art civilisation becomes a spiritually bankrupt wasteland ."

Now Mosaic Records, a specialist in the music re-issue and compilation field, is celebrating the legendary musician further with the release of his recordings on the equally renowned Blue Note label(the recording home of current jazz-pop star Norah Jones). Entiltled simply Mosaic Select: Dizzy Reece, the disc aggregates the hornman's association with the label dating back to the late 1950s with Blues in Trinity . This was followed by Star Bright (Featuring another great Jamaican musician, Wynton Kelly, on piano) and Soundin' Off. Two more stellar sessions followed in 1960, but these were not released until almost 40 years later (1999) as Comin' On..

The son of a silent films pianist, Reece made his professional debut at age 14, after switching to the trumpet from the baritone sax. Since then, he has shared the stage and the recording studio with some of the greatest names in the jazz pantheon including Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Kenny Clarke, Don Byas, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Red Garland, Machito, and Billy Taylor.

He made his debut as a leader in 1953 as leader with the recording, A New Star. A prolific composer, arranger-orchestrator, Reece is truly respected as one of the very few great trumpet players in the world today, says Mike Longo, who previously played with the maestro. "His recordings show the mastery of the instrument as it truly communicates the unique message of the trumpet, profiling a musical language that has been in transition since jazz trumpet playing had its inception."

Like a number of creative Jamaicans of his time, Reece moved to London in 1948 and that city remained his base of operations for more than a decade, though he made frequent trips across the continent and North Africa. For a while he had his own ten-piece band, which played the arrangements of his namesake, be-bop founding father, Dizzy Gillespie.

Of his UK experience Reece states, "There are quite a few good musicians over there and many of them American . . . Kenny Clarke, Don Byas, Bud Powell . . . I always had trouble with the rhythm sections over there, though. Rhythm sections are supposed to accompany and I don't think they were always aware of that."

The Jamaican master has been a host and guest on many radio programs in the U S and internationally. His compositions include dramatic film and theatre music to bedtime music. In the1950s, Reece appeared on three soundtracks for British films. In 958 his improvised film score for the MGM movie Nowhere To Go (George Nader- Maggie Smith) was an innovative performance for modern jazz in films in England. Since its release in 1958 the film has been continuously shown internationally with its performance as a "Hollywood Classic" on TNT in 1993.

At home, Dizzy Reece was the 1999/2000 recipient of the Prime Minister's Award for Excellence and performed on the Prime Minister's Independence Gala in that year. He has also been featured artist at the Ocho Rios Jamaica jazz festival and is an inductee to the Jamaica Jazz Hall of Fame. Subsequently, he performed a well-received benefit concert for the National AIDS Committee.

Equipped with a virtuoso technique, he is not timid about making complete use of that either, but his virtuosity is never employed for its own sake, only as a means to express the full gamut of his emotions, or in his own words, "the emotional must never outweigh the cerebral. They must strike that sacred balance that is contested in art."



Monday, October 18, 2004

Dizzy [Reece] Gets Overdue Ovation

Jamaican trumpeter Dizzy reece (who these days makes his home in New York City, id featured in the latest issue of jazz Times magazine. Dizzy is the subject of JT's Overdue Ovation section and the piece is written by JT editor Chris Porter, who previously interviewed jamaican jazz giants Monty Alexander and Ernie Ranglin for the magazine

Dizzy is als othe subject of a three-disc retrospective of his Blue Note sesions in the late 50s and early 60s by Mosaic records(mosaicrecords.com). Its issued underthe Mosaic Select series and features the trumpet great's collaborations withthe likes of Stnaley Turrentine. Art Blakey, Art Taylor, Jymie Merrit and another great Jamaican, pianist Wynton Kelly

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Pine 'Stays Fresh'

British saxophonist Courtney Pine, who is of Jamaican parentage, recently completed a world toour in support of his current album Devotion. The saxman capped the tour in London.

Pine is laos at work on material for his next album, schedulked for Summer '05 release.

see www.courtney-pine.com for more

Friday, October 08, 2004


Originally uploaded by mylakent.
Not a local shot obviously, but it'll do till I upload my own stuff.

COrrection- Jazz in the Gardens

Earlier post gave September 30 date for renewal of Jazz in the Gardens concert series.

As you all can see that was plain wrong - Jazz in the Gardens, on the grounds of th Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, happens Sun October 30 beginnign around 6:30 featured performers include singers Karen Smitrh, Keisha Patterson and Angel

Jazzofonik Radio

Coming Soon! the Jazzofonik X-pereince on the Deck will soon be simulcast on radio. Watsh this space for details.

Also: next week: first excerpt from my forthcoming book, Jamaiaca Swing, will be available

"Nawlinz Night @ the Hilton Kingston continues withthe 3-D Band;