Wherein I’m hearing Keith Jarrett, messing around in his home studio in 1986, Ran Blake, alone at the piano, as recorded in 1965, and more:
Keith Jarrett No End (ECM, Nov. 26): ECM has been revealing many facets of Jarrett’s musicality during the past year: 2013 brought us “Hymns/Spheres,” a reissue of Jarrett’s organ work; “Somewhere,” a delightful and recent concert recording from Jarrett’s trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette; and “J.S. Bach’s Six Sonatas for Violin and Piano,” with Michelle Makarski. Soon to come, I’m told is a 3-CD edition of Jarrett’s 1981 improvised concerts in Austria and Germany. All that music arrives with context. But “No End,” which will be released next week, is a pure curiosity. Here’s how the press release describes it: “illuminating hitherto undocumented aspects of Keith Jarrett’s music, recorded at his home in 1986. Piano plays but a cameo role, and instead he is heard on electric guitars, electric bass, drums and percussion, overdubbing tribal dances of his own devising.” Really. And 2 CDs of it. On first listen, it’s hard not to be struck by just how much Jarrett’s approach to electric guitar seems to reflect Jerry Garcia’s. And yet there’s an interesting rhythmic dynamic, at once meditative and insistent, that is pure Keith. I’ll keep listening.
Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano (ESP Disk): ESP’s 50th anniversary reissue program of remastered classics brings many buried treasures, perhaps none better so far than this long out-of-print 1965 solo recording by Blake, whose singular approach is best experienced in a solo setting. Here, along with four original compositions, Blake interprets, among other pieces, Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” (the pianist claims that he was the fourth musicians to play “Lonely Woman” on recording, after Ornette, Chris Connor and the Modern Jazz Quartet) and “Good Mornin’ Heartache,” a tune indelibly associated with Billie Holiday.
Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble A Trumpet in the Morning (New World): Here Ehlrich, a fascinating and idisyncratic reeds player, focuses solely on composing and conducting. He was impacted as a teen by St. Louis’ Black Artists Group (BAG), a multidisciplinary collective much like Chicago’s AACM. One of the two extended suites that dominate this CD sets a poem by BAG-affiliated writer Arthur Brown to music; on it, Ehrlich’s longtime collaborator, J.D. Parran, serving as narrator and primary improvisor on soprano and bass saxophones.
Brian Lynch Unsung Heroes, Vol. 2 (Hollistic Music Works): Lynch has had good success with concept albums, which can be tricky things. On this follow-up to 2011’s intriguing Vol. 1, the trumpeter mines the legacies and songbooks of largely unheralded trumpeters that he reveres, including Howard McGhee, Tommy Turrentine and Idrees Sulieman. In his notes to the CD, Lynch mentions that he drew from scores for music that wasn’t recorded, which afforded “the possibility of new and unheard music for these sessions, in contrast to either a rote recitation of a previously recorded version or a “reimagining” remote from the composer’s intention.”
Greg Lewis Organ Monk American Standard (Greg Lewis Music, Jan. 7): With this third CD from his Organ Monk band, Lewis has pretty much cornered the market on channeling the spirit of the great pianist and composer Thelonious Monk through a Hammond B-3. He’s already proven that he has facility, nerve and sense of humor enough to pull it off. Here Lewis focuses on Tin Pan Alley songs that Monk favored whenever he wasn’t working over his own compositions—“Nice Work if You Can Get It,” for instance, and “Dinah.”
Helen Sung Anthem (Concord, Jan. 28): Sung is a classically trained pianist who took up jazz in her 20s, and dove in full force. On this, her Concord debut, she appears to be expanding her horizons yet further and loosening up even more: she plays Fender Rhodes as well as piano and her band is augmented on a couple of tracks by violinist Regina Carter and clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera.