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  Listen Up! 1/6/03 Listen Up!

Monday, Jan. 6

Tina Brooks, “The Waiting Game,” Blue Note Records. Brooks is one of those tenor players who got no respect. Barely known outside of the hard-core jazz experts, the guy could really play. A big, smooth tone, with a concision to his soloing that is especially welcome. This March, 1961 date finds him in perfect synch with trumpeter Johnny Coles (another often overlooked talent), along with a crack rhythm section of Kenny Drew on piano, Wilbur Ware on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. Brooks’ compositions, which account for five of the six cuts, are intelligent and muscular.

Jackie McLean, “Jackknife,” Blue Note Records. It’s 1965, and veteran altoist Jackie McLean is hanging with some younger guns, including trumpeters Charles Tolliver and Lee Morgan, and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The music is expansive, especially Tolliver’s luxurious and mysterious “On the Nile.” Lots of twisting and turning rhythmic directions. An album worth hearing many, many times, I think.

Rolling Stones, “Hot Rocks,” Abkco Records. This is an old CD, and it doesn’t sound nearly as clean as the new remastered versions of these same songs. But, hey, has there ever been a better compilation album of anybody’s most fertile period?

Jenny Toomey, “Tempting: Sings the Songs of Franklin Bruno,” MISRA Records. Toomey used to be in a band called Tsunami, and maybe another one. Bruno used to be in other bands that people have told me about. I’ve never heard of any of these people before I caught “Just Because It’s Dying” from this album on Darren Snow’s radio show on KDHX. Holy cow! What a song. Melodically, there are some cool developments that push beyond standard structure for individual lines. Lyrically, it’s a really powerful exploration of life, death, and the end of love, with some clever bits in there as well. The album has more of the same, with “Your Inarticulate Boyfriend” almost as great, and a couple other songs close enough to keep my interest. I’ve since heard Bruno sing, and that was a traumatic experience. He’s got no range. Toomey has little, but her smoky chanteuse voice fits these open jazz-based arrangements nicely. I say jazz-based, but there’s a lot of variety, with the boys from Calexico contributing ideas to the mix. It’s nice to hear such a blatantly intelligent record.

Various Artists, “Masters of Jazz: Traditional Jazz Classics,” Rhino Records. Rhino put this series out about seven or eight years ago. It was a nice primer on jazz. This particular volume focuses on the first 20 years of jazz recording, from 1918 to the late 30s. Naturally enough, the music is hot, with lots of variety, and very little self-consciousness. This was art music that thought it was just out to have a good time, which only added to the artistry. Yeah, the rhythms would loosen up over time, but these early recordings are still plenty inventive and surprising even after all these years.

--Steve Pick



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