No small wonder

by Paul Burmeister

I have admired Bennie Maupin’s Jewel in the Lotus (1974) for over 35 years and return to my vinyl copy when I crave music that is grounding. This example, from a fine jazz musician who may be primarily known for his association with Herbie Hancock during the 1970s, is textural and almost leaderless—with minimal soloing and a collective, ensemble attentiveness foregrounded instead. I was unaware of the music’s origination in rhythms of Buddhist chanting, which I learned in a Pitchfork review.
I also learned of bassist Buster William’s key role in the formation of this music. I shouldn’t be surprised because Williams is a wonderful player who figured prominently on another favorite album from this time, Joe Farrell’s Outback (1971.) On Maupin’s Jewel in the Lotus, I recommend “Ensenada” especially.

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Let me like Nina Simone for another reason

by Paul Burmeister

Nina Simone (1933-2003) is certainly not an unknown singer. She is well-liked for her singing style, her voice for social issues, and her appeal to things “hip.” And I also really like the way she played piano; she’s somewhere between Horace Silver and Terry Adams in my appreciation. Her piano playing combined a lively and quirky right hand with a soulful left. Her playing is foregrounded on the 1961 Roulette title, At the Village Gate. I recommend “Just in Time” for your playlist, but this title is full of good tunes done well. Dig her playing on “Bye Bye Blackbird,” which is one of my favorite versions of this standard and becomes an all-out rocker.

Monk . . . again

by Paul Burmeister

About four months ago I posted with the opinion that Monk. was my favorite Thelonious Monk album. I stand by that opinion . . . and if I was forced to take but a single Monk album to a lonely place, my new choice would probably be Brilliant Corners. Recorded in 1956 and remastered in 1987, Brilliant Corners has a great lineup, featuring the saxophone of Sonny Rollins and the drums (including tympany!) of Max Roach. The tunes are “Brilliant Corners,” “Pannonica,” “Bemsha Swing,” and two others.
According to original liner notes, the music was very difficult for the gifted musicians to play. Maybe for this reason the album won’t be as accessible to many listeners as other Monk offerings. But it’s still fun, and I’d be just plain wrong not to recommend it to the curious.

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Craftsmanship and jazz piano

by Paul Burmeister

I can’t remember the jazz writer who compared Horace Silver to Jean Baptiste Camille Corot on grounds of their respective craftsmanship, but his idea helped inform my appreciation of Silver’s recordings. When I think of jazz pianists in the context of craftsmanship, two lesser-known artists come to mind: Richie Beirach and Sir Roland Hanna. Hanna’s Everything I Love (2002) is astonishing, and the liner notes reveal Hanna just started playing, selecting tunes on the fly, and recording them in first-and-only takes! It’s a marvelous collection, and I especially recommend “You’d be So Nice To Come Home To” for your playlist. His version of Miles Davis’ “All Blues” will please many listeners as well.

Sir Roland Hanna, 1983

Sir Roland Hanna, 1983