Among my favorites . . . jazz leader guitar

by Paul Burmeister

I’m no expert on jazz, but I listen to a lot. I’m no guitarist, but I’ve known a few. Here’s a list of favorite jazz guitarists’ solo projects, selected out of my collection, and the list excludes jazz guitarists playing as sidemen (too many great examples!) and titles I don’t own. And the list is skewed a little by recordings from the 1970s. Apologies to Mr. Montgomery!

CORYELL Larry and CATHERINE Philip, Splendid, 1978
GREEN Grant, Solid, 1964
KESSEL Barney, Feeling Free, 1969
MARTINO Pat, Footprints, 1972
MCLAUGHLIN John, Electric Guitarist, 1978
METHENY Pat, Rejoicing, 1983
PRINCE Roland, Free Spirit, 1977
RYPDAL Terje, Waves, 1977
SCOFIELD John, Uberjam, 2002
SHARROCK Sonny, Ask the Ages, 1991
TOWNER Ralph, Solstice, 1975

Lost Larry Coryell

by Paul Burmeister

Well, not exactly lost, because Coryell’s 1992 release on CTI, Live from Bahia,is available on Amazon. Larry Coryell (1943-2017) by all accounts seems to have been a very gifted and versatile guitarist. I’m not as much a fan of his fusion as I am of his early Lady Coryell album, his duets with Philip Catherine, and this breezy release of Brazilian-inspired music.
Live from Bahia is very pleasant, with lots of musical interest; however, I don’t agree with those who characterize it as “smooth,” or “soft,” or “mood music.” Those descriptions come close, and not really close. This release is from a time when others in jazz were doing similar things—Pat Metheny had used vocalists to similar effect, and one song has a Miles Davis’ 80s vibe. But Coryell’s sensibility is distinct, Donald Harrison is a surprising and strong contributor, and Billy Cobham lays a solid foundation. Two recommended cuts are Coryell’s “Bloco Loco” and Cobham’s “Panama.”

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Here's to Holland!

by Paul Burmeister

Dave Holland, that is. The 72-year-old English double bassist has put together one of the strongest careers in the history of the jazz idiom. Certainly, the consistent quality of his work and the breadth of his efforts rank him among the greatest contributors in jazz. And, as it goes, most people outside of jazz fandom have probably never heard of him. His excellence is of the quiet variety, despite his prolific touring and recording.
My first exposure to his art was on Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew (1969.) Next I was captivated by his classic, Conference of the Birds (1972.) I’ve had the pleasure of seeing his quintet live. When I am asked about favorite this or that, I usually respond by doing a quick mental inventory of the recordings I own and count who appears the most. Holland is by far the bassist I have listened to the most . . . and my favorite.

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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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