Monday, May 3, 2010

Rediscovering some old faves

I bought Gary Burton's Dreams So Real on vinyl when it first came out in 1976 and it quickly became one of my favorite albums, but I had not really listened to it much in many years. All that changed with my recent visit to the used jazz CD bin at Rasputins. Nearly 35 years later I could still hum along to every solo. The rap against ECM Records has been that they are purveyors of soulless new age Euro-jazz, but this album still has a nice little edge to it. The band is tight and proves the feasibility of producing plenty of energy through cool fusion. Pat Metheny turns in some nice work, but among the accompanists it is Steve Swallow's driving bass line that keeps things moving. More than anything, the album showcases vibraphonist Gary Burton, whose playing ranges from lyrical and sensitive to mind-boggling... can he really do that with "just" four mallets?

On the same trip I picked up The Best of John Coltrane (Atlantic 1970). The title is misleading: all of the tracks here were recorded with his quartet over a two-year period (1959 and 1960). On the other hand, you can't argue with the music. Coltrane as soloist, composer, bandleader, conceptualist, visionary. McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones tearing it up. Aside from the recording quality, it's hard to believe this music is now a half-century old.

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