Archive for Brian Lynch

Best Jazz Albums I Heard in 2016

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2016, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2017 by curtjazz

melissa-morganLet’s start with a confession: I got to hear fewer jazz albums this year than in any year in the past two decades. Which is a shame, because there was a TON of worthwhile music released during the year. My crazy schedule in 2016 often limited me to snippets or tracks from discs that I vowed to get back to, but never did.  So, here’s my list of the best albums that I actually got to hear during the year. Also, there’s a track from an extremely promising young artist, who needs to put more on the market, ASAP; a couple of outstanding 2015 releases that didn’t catch my ear until 2016; and finally, a few of the many fine 2016 releases that I plan to catch up with in January:

ALBUM ARTIST LABEL
ArtScience Robert Glasper Blue Note
Back Home Melissa Aldana Wommusic
Beginning of a Memory Matt Wilson Palmetto
Book of Intuition Kenny Barron Trio Impulse
Chasing After the Wind Gregory Tardy Steeplechase
Convergence Warren Wolf Mack Avenue
Days Like This Melissa Morgan CD Baby
Do Your Dance Kenny Garrett Mack Avenue
Feet in the Mud Mimi Jones Hot Tone
In Movement DeJohnette, Coltrane and Garrison ECM
Jersey Cat Freddie Hendrix Sunnyside
Live at Maxwell’s DE3 Sunnyside
Nihil Novi Marcus Strickland Revive/Blue Note
Notes from New York Bill Charlap Impulse
Once and Future Brian Charette Posi-Tone
Perfection Murray, Allen and Carrington Motema
Presented by the Side Door Jazz Club Black Art Jazz Collective Sunnyside
Restless Idealism Roxy Coss Origin
Soul Tree Ed Cherry Posi-Tone
The Sound of Red Rene Marie Motema
Stranger Days Adam O’Farrill Sunnyside
Take Me to the Alley Gregory Porter Blue Note
TriAngular III Ralph Peterson Trio Onyx/Truth Revolution
The Way We Play Marquis Hill Concord
Written in The Rocks Renee Rosnes Smoke Sessions

2016’s most compelling single in search of an album:

  • “Chicken Day” – Harvey Cummings II

Two 2015 albums (heard in 2016) that deserved to be on last year’s list:

  • Back to the City – Amos Hoffman (CD Baby)
  • Some Morning – Kim Nazarian (CD Baby)

Probably excellent 2016 albums that I look forward to hearing as soon as possible:

ALBUM ARTIST LABEL
#KnowingIsHalfTheBattle Orrin Evans Smoke Sessions
Away With You Mary Halvorson Octet Firehouse 12
Day Breaks Norah Jones Blue Note
Habana Dreams Pedrito Martinez Group Motema
Harlem on My Mind Catherine Russell Jazz Village
Inner Spectrum of Variables Tyshawn Sorey Pi
Madera Latino Brian Lynch Hollistic Music Works
San Jose Suite Etienne Charles Culture Shock
Something Gold, Something Blue Tom Harrell High Note
Upward Spiral Branford Marsalis Okeh

 

 

 

2017 Grammy Nominations: Jazz categories

Posted in 2017 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2016 by curtjazz

grammy1

Congratulations to all of the artists nominated for Grammy Awards in the jazz related categories. Since they often include jazz artists, we’ve also included the nominations in the instrumental arrangement and composition categories in this list. The awards will be presented on Sunday, February 12, 2017, in a portion of the program prior to the nationally televised broadcast. More on the nominated, albums, performances and artists will follow in the coming weeks.

Best improvised jazz solo

“Countdown” — Joey Alexander, soloist

“In Movement” — Ravi Coltrane, soloist

“We See” — Fred Hersch, soloist

“I Concentrate On You” — Brad Mehldau, soloist

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” — John Scofield, soloist

Best jazz vocal album

“Sound of Red” — René Marie

“Upward Spiral” — Branford Marsalis Quartet With Special Guest Kurt Elling

“Take Me to the Alley” — Gregory Porter

“Harlem On My Mind” — Catherine Russell

“The Sting Variations” — The Tierney Sutton Band

Best jazz instrumental album

“Book of Intuition” — Kenny Barron Trio

“Dr. Um” — Peter Erskine

“Sunday Night at the Vanguard” — The Fred Hersch Trio

“Nearness” — Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau

“Country For Old Men” — John Scofield

Best large jazz ensemble album

“Real Enemies” — Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society

“Presents Monk’estra, Vol. 1” — John Beasley

“Kaleidoscope Eyes: Music of the Beatles” — John Daversa

“All L.A. Band” — Bob Mintzer

“Presidential Suite: Eight Variations On Freedom” — Ted Nash Big Band

Best Latin jazz album

“Entre Colegas” — Andy González

“Madera Latino: A Latin Jazz Perspective on the Music of Woody Shaw” — Brian Lynch & Various Artists

“Canto América” — Michael Spiro/Wayne Wallace La Orquesta Sinfonietta

“30” — Trio Da Paz

“Tribute to Irakere: Live In Marciac” — Chucho Valdés

Best instrumental composition

“Bridge of Spies (End Title)” — Thomas Newman, composer

“The Expensive Train Set (An Epic Sarahnade For Double Big Band)” — Tim Davies, composer

“Flow” — Alan Ferber, composer

“L’Ultima Diligenza Di Red Rock”  Versione Integrale — Ennio Morricone, composer

“Spoken at Midnight” — Ted Nash, composer

Best arrangement, instrumental or a cappella

“Ask Me Now” — John Beasley, arranger

“Good Swing Wenceslas” — Sammy Nestico, arranger

“Linus & Lucy” — Christian Jacob, arranger

“Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” — John Daversa, arranger

“We Three Kings” — Ted Nash, arranger

“You And I” — Jacob Collier, arrange

Best arrangement, instruments and vocals

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” — Gordon Goodwin, arranger (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band Featuring Take 6)

“Do You Want To Know a Secret” — John Daversa, arranger (John Daversa Featuring Renee Olstead)

“Flintstones” — Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier)

“I’m a Fool to Want You” — Alan Broadbent, arranger (Kristin Chenoweth)

“Somewhere (Dirty Blvd)” (Extended Version) — Billy Childs & Larry Klein, arrangers (Lang Lang Featuring Lisa Fischer & Jeffrey Wright)

Best Jazz Albums of 2014 – A Closer Look: Part 4 of 5

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2014 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2014 by curtjazz

michael deaseIn our penultimate look at our Best Jazz Albums of 2014, we have an artist who appears twice; once at the front of his familiar Afro-Latin Jazz Band and again as a part of a newly formed “super-group”. We also have a remarkable vocalist, who records far too infrequently, delivering another impressive album. A teacher-student pairing has borne fruit that is musically delicious. And a hardworking big band sideman takes the reins and shows how well he can perform when in the driver’s seat.

  • The Offense of the Drum – Arturo O’Farrill (Motema) The son of Afro-Cuban Jazz royalty produces his most eclectic album to date and in doing so, breathes a bit of freshness and excitement into a genre that has grown somewhat stale. Special guests such as harpist Edmar Castaneda (“Cuarto de Colores”) and saxophonist Donald Harrison (“Iko Iko”) light a fire. Then along comes pianist Vijay Iyer with a knotty piece (“The Mad Hatter”) to fan the flames further before spoken word artist “Chilo” and DJ Logic blow the roof off, on an anthem of Puerto Rican pride (“They Came”). Underneath it all, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra keeps the pressure on, driving each guest and soloist to be at the top of their game. Give us more like this Arturo. Please! 
  • Promises to Burn – Janice Borla Group (Tall Grass)  Every few years, Janice Borla, IMO, one of the finest pure jazz voices alive, takes a break from her busy schedule of teaching, clinics and jazz camps to record a new album. In doing so, she reminds me of what I find so interesting about her artistry. There are many who can stand in front of a band and sing. Ms. Borla makes her voice an integral instrument in the band. Many singers use the appellation “voice” as an affectation, for Janice Borla it is a spot-on description. Oh yeah. In case you’re wondering, Promises to Burn is a terrific album. Ms. Borla and Co. take mostly unfamiliar instrumental works by jazz musicians such as Jack DeJohnette, Bob Mintzer and Joey Calderazzo and bring out their vocal best.  
  • The Puppeteers – The Puppeteers (Red) From 2006 through 2011, one of the best places in New York to check out jazz musicians as they tried out new ideas was Puppet’s Jazz Bar in Brooklyn. There, owner/drummer Jamie Affoumado and many other musicians found a more friendly environment than existed on most of the tough NYC club scene. It was also there that Mr. Affoumado first teamed with bassist Alex Blake, pianist Arturo O’Farrill and vibraphonist Bill Ware to jam. After the club’s closing, Mr. Affoumado teamed with attorney Dana Hall to form Puppet’s Records. The label’s first release is an album by the four musicians, who call themselves, appropriately, The Puppeteers. It is an auspicious debut, with each member of the collective contributing at least one tune and innumerable ideas, learned from all of their years on the scene working with  musical heavies from Randy Weston to Steely Dan to Jaco Pastorious and beyond. Their sound is definitively jazz but with the groups pedigree, there are strong notes of Afro-Latin, soul and even a little rock in the mix. Whatever it is, it works. Looking forward to what’s coming from Puppet Records and The Puppeteers.   
  • Questioned Answer – Brian Lynch & Emmet Cohen (Hollistic Music) Trumpet master Brian Lynch first met the young pianist Emmet Cohen on the 2011 Jazz Cruise, where Mr. Lynch was featured and Mr. Cohen was showcased with a trio from the U. of Miami, where he was an undergrad. As fate would have it, a few months later, Lynch became a trumpet professor at The U. They began to play and practice together on a regular basis as a duo, sharpening the musical bond that they had first recognized on the cruise. After about a year of shedding, they recorded this album, which was finally released this year, thanks to generous Kickstarter support. Consisting of duo and quartet (w/ Billy Hart and Boris Kozlov) performances, the album is another feather in the cap of Lynch, who just keeps getting better. It is also an exciting debut  by young Mr. Cohen who possesses great facility and an astuteness that is way beyond his years. I can hear what impressed Mr. Lynch so much on that cruise.
  • Relentless – Michael Dease (Posi-Tone) I should have seen this one coming but it still caught me by surprise.  Trombonist Michael Dease has done some fine work before, releasing four impressive albums as a leader of small groups. He has also been in the trombone sections of big bands led by Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Heath, Charles Tolliver and others, sometimes handling the arranging chores. So it’s a natural progression for this 32-year-old Georgian to take his best arrangements and put them on display in his own big band. The charts are complex, strong and they swing like mad. Mr. Dease has learned his lessons well and put them to good use. 

Tracks from all 25 albums in our 2014 Best Of list, may be heard on Curt’s Cafe Noir WebJazz radio, our free, streaming radio station, from now throughout January 2015. Click HERE to access the station.

Our next post will include the final five albums on our alphabetical list.

Until then, the jazz continues…

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2014

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2014 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2014 by curtjazz

ali jacksonThe Pop Music press went apoplectic when Beyoncé and a few others, dropped their latest projects online in the middle of the night, with no advance promotion.When I heard that my first thought was: Oh, please! In jazz, we call that “Tuesday”.

The fact that an eclectic release schedule has become the norm, did force me to play catch-up on a few releases in the last month. I’m glad I did as several of them went right from my ears to this list.

I’m also breaking my “tradition” in that I’m publishing the full list first. Since it is relatively late this year, I figured that we’d cut to the chase and then follow with the rationales and video clips in several posts over the next week. I also was unable to get out a mid-term list this year so instead we’re doing it in one glorious heap.

That said, her are 25 Jazz projects that moved me this year, in alpha order by album title. Comments and disagreements are always welcomed:

Tracks from these albums and more can be heard on Curt’s Cafe Noir, our 24/7 streaming jazz radio station, starting December 27th, through most of January 2015.

We wish you all a very Happy, Healthy and Blessed Holiday Season.

Until the next time, the Jazz Continues…

Favorite Jazz Albums of 2011 (So Far)

Posted in CD Reviews, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2011 by curtjazz

Since I was shamefully late with my best of list for 2010, I figured why wait ‘til the last minute this year…

But seriously, there has been some fine jazz released so far in 2011. We’ve had some great releases from reliable veterans as well as some surprises from relative newcomers.  Here are a few of the discs that have caught my ear during between January and June. They are listed in alphabetical order, by album title:

Bird Songs – Joe Lovano & Us Five (Blue Note) – Released in early January, this disc got the year off to a strong start. Yes, there are many Charlie Parker tribute albums, but Lovano and the band (James Weidman, Esperanza Spalding, Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela), have managed to find something fresh, new and exciting in these tunes that we have heard more times that we can count. In addition, in the two years since their last disc, their sound has grown more cohesive.  If Joe Lovano isn’t the best tenor player of his generation, then he’s definitely in the top two.

Campo Belo – Anthony Wilson (Goat Hill)Recorded in Sao Paulo, Brazil, last September, with three very gifted young Brazilian musicians; Campo Belo counts as one of the most pleasant surprises of the first half of the year.  It’s not a Brazilian record in the sense that we have come to know it, and therein lays a great deal of its charm.  It never sounds forced or self-conscious; it’s just a bunch of cats that dig each other’s style, sitting down to play. It’s a heady vibe that will grow on you with each listen.

 

Captain Black Big Band – Orrin Evans (Posi-Tone)Hold on to your hats on this one. Evans, the Philly bred pianist has dropped on us a band that’s as big, brash and badass as it wants to be.  It was born out of Evans’ regular gigging at Chris’ Jazz Café in Philadelphia.  The glorious result is 38 musicians,  from The Big Apple and The City of Brotherly Love, in various configurations; blowing their hearts out on seven tracks. Soloists include Wayne Escoffery, Tim Warfield, Jaleel Shaw and the great trombonist Frank Lacy. It may not be your father’s big band, but it should be yours.

Good and Bad Memories – Stacy Dillard (Criss Cross)Though people have pulled my coat about him in the past, I’d somehow managed to sleep on this Michigan native until this album, his fifth as a frontman.  It’s definitely my loss. His sound on tenor and soprano is restless, powerful and exciting as all hell.  With support from a band that includes Orrin Evans, and guitarist Craig Magnano anchoring a non-traditional front line, Stacy Dillard proves to be a force to be reckoned with, as a player and as a composer. When speaking of Mr. Dillard, Wynton Marsalis eloquently exclaims “This MF can PLAY!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

The Lost and Found Gretchen Parlato (ObliqSound)Ms. Parlato is another artist who gets better with each successive release.  This album is a dreamy mix of gorgeous originals like “Winter Wind”, with inventive takes on jazz classics, like “Juju” and “Blue in Green”, with totally unexpected and effective uses of more recent works, including Mary J. Blige’s “All That I Can Say”. Not everyone digs her style, but I sure do. Gretchen Parlato is one of jazz singing’s best hopes for the future.

Ninety Miles – Stefon Harris; David Sanchez and Christian Scott (Concord Picante) – One of the most anticipated jazz releases of the first half of the year, lives up to the hype.  Harris, Sanchez, Scott and their Cuban sidemen have bridged the political nonsense to create some powerful and enduring music. They are a true collective, as all support each other as powerfully as they solo.  Grammys be damned, Ninety Miles is some award worthy Latin Jazz.

No Need for Words – Sean Jones (Mack Avenue) Trumpeter Sean Jones’ latest, is an album of love songs; not in the traditional romantic sense, but rather it’s about all of the different emotional aspects that visit us when we love, in any way. So, there are songs about a mother’s love, forgiveness for an absent father, spiritual love, physical passion, unhealthy obsession and yes, romance. His writing is very strong and his band is rock solid. On No Need for Words, Jones makes a statement that is personal, powerful and compelling.

This Side of Strayhorn – Terell Stafford (MaxJazz) The veteran trumpet man flat-out cooks from start to finish on this tribute to the works of one of jazz’s greatest composers.  He tackles the well-known (“Lush Life”) and the obscure (“Lana Turner”) parts of the Strayhorn catalog with creativity and gusto. His tone is as good as it has ever been as Stafford flutters, sings and growls his around Strayhorn’s music as if the songs were written just for him.  With stalwarts like Tim Warfield and Bruce Barth joining him, they manage to make great tunes even greater.

 

Victory J.D. Allen (Sunnyside) In general, I have not been a big fan of sax trios, outside of Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson.  J.D. Allen is one of handful of relative newcomers who are causing me to reconsider.  Here’s what made me fall in love: first – Victory is stocked with short, powerful statements.  No one track exceeds five minutes in length, leaving less room for the self-indulgent rambling that often plagues trio projects. Second – J.D. Allen is a prodigiously gifted musician; adept at flirting outrageously with the avant-garde without going all the way.  Third – a delightful rendition of “Stairway to the Stars”, that appears out of nowhere. Kudos to Gregg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums, who are just as important to this album’s success.

 

Voice of My Beautiful Country René Marie (Motema) By now, most jazz fans are familiar with the incident that birthed the concept for this album. Invited to sing the National Anthem at a 2008 Denver political event, Ms. Marie instead chose to sing the words of “The Star Spangled Banner”, to the melody of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” (aka “The Black National Anthem”). Though the rendition was stunning, the fallout was immediate and harsh, on all sides of the political and racial spectrum. It nearly derailed Ms. Marie’s promising career.  Now in her first full album release since the incident, René Marie proves that she’s back with a vengeance. Voice of My Beautiful Country is a flat-out artistic triumph; as it covers the spectrum of great American songwriting, from homespun Americana, like “John Henry” to rock classics (“White Rabbit”) to a surprisingly effective medley of “Imagination” and “Just My Imagination” to the unforgettable “Voice of My Beautiful Country Suite”, which includes another “Star Spangled Banner”/”Lift Ev’ry Voice…” mashup. René Marie has been called the natural successor to Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln and other socially conscious jazz singers. The comparison is fitting.

Honorable Mention must go to Brian Lynch’s Unsung Heroes, an album released on CD in 2011, which would be at the top of this list, except for the fact that it appeared on the 2010 year-end list, after it was released late last year in digital form only. Nevertheless, it’s so good that we’ve got to at least mention it again, just in case you’ve missed it.

I also need to remind everyone that this list represents releases that I’ve heard during the first six month of this year. All, some or none of these albums may be on the year-end list, as I hear newer releases, catch up with stuff from the first six months that I haven’t heard yet (such as Branford Marsalis & Joey Calderazzo’s Songs of Mirth and Melancholy, Ben Williams’ State of Art and Vijay Iyer’s Tirtha, all of which are at the top of my very long “to get to” list), or simply change my mind, which is a jazz geek’s prerogative.

I hope that you’ll use this list as an excuse to check out something that you haven’t heard. Agreements, disagreements and additional suggestions are always welcomed.

Until the next time, the jazz continues…

Obscure Trumpet Masters #10 – Tommy Turrentine

Posted in Obscure Trumpet Masters with tags , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2011 by curtjazz

Tommy Turrentine (1928 –1997)

As a trumpet soloist Turrentine had all the qualities necessary for greatness. He had a full, warm tone throughout the range of the instrument and possessed the ability to create solos using long unbroken lines. His flair for melodic improvisation using long climaxes often contrasted sharply with the more disjointed creations of younger men who seemed anxious to brush aside convention. – Alun Morgan

He was the older brother of one of the most famous jazz musicians of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. His kid brother recorded dozens of albums, including a few that are fondly remembered as classics. He was every bit the musician that baby brother was. Yet Stanley Turrentine is a bona fide jazz legend, while Tommy Turrentine, who recorded only one album as a leader in his entire career, is unknown to all but ardent jazz fans and the many musicians who still marvel at his gifts, both as a trumpet player and as a composer.

Thomas Walter Turrentine, Jr. was born in Pittsburgh in 1928, six years before Stanley.  He joined Benny Carter’s Big Band at eighteen. In his early twenties, he played with Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie and briefly with Count Basie.  He and Stanley then joined Earl Bostic in 1952 for a three-year bid. 

In 1959, the Turrentine brothers received their first major exposure when they joined Max Roach’s quintet. There, Tom and Stan took part in some enduring works, including Quiet as it’s Kept; Abbey Lincoln’s Abbey is Blue  and the drum battle Rich vs. Roach.  In 1960, while with Roach, he also recorded his first (and last) album, the eponymous Tommy Turrentine.  He was backed by his Roach bandmates plus pianist Horace Parlan.  Tommy Turrentine’s compositions took center stage, as he wrote five of the seven tracks on this solid and swinging date, which went unnoticed for the most part.

(Tommy Turrentine plays “Time’s Up”,  from Tommy Turrentine)

Ironically, Tommy Turrentine drew more attention for his work as a sideman, subsequent to his own album.  Stanley signed with Blue Note in 1961.  Tommy came along as a sideman on Stan’s first Blue Note album Comin’ Your Way.  Tommy also wrote the track “Thomasville” for that record; one of his most enduring compositions.  Tommy was not done yet for Blue Note; that year as he also played on and/or contributed tunes to  Parlan’s On the Spur of the Moment and Up & Down;  Jackie McLean’s A Fickle Sonance and Sonny Clark’s classic Leapin’ and Lopin’ .  In 1962-63, he added Stanley’s Jubilee Shout!!!, That’s Where it’s At and Never Let Me Go; Big John Patton’s Blue John and Lou Donaldson’s The Natural Soul to his performing and writing credits. 

(“Sow Belly Blues” from Lou Donaldson’s The Natural Soul. Tommy Turrentine – trumpet)

Though he was the technical equal of Blue Note’s rising trumpet stars Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan, he wasn’t as personally brash as those two. Perhaps that intangible was the missing element that kept Tommy Turrentine from greater prominence. He was also said to suffer from some health problems that curtailed his work. Whatever the reason, Tommy Turrentine pretty much faded into obscurity by the mid ‘60’s; around the same time that Stanley was rising towards the pinnacle. 

(From Sonny Clark’s Leapin’ and Lopin’ – “Midnight Mambo” – Tommy Turrentine; composer and trumpet)

He would appear on a few albums (including interestingly enough, one with Sun Ra in 1988) and at a few club dates here and there, but by the ‘70’s, Tommy Turrentine, the musician, was in semi-retirement, with his wife, in his New York City brownstone.  Tommy Turrentine, the composer, the teacher and the mentor, never stopped working however, until his passing in 1997.  Like Idrees Sulieman (Obscure Trumpet Master #9) he wrote many compositions that went unperformed and were published by Don Sickler’s Second Floor music.  The four that are included in Brian Lynch’s Unsung Heroes series, are all memorable. 

(From Unsung Heroes; Vol.2 – Brian Lynch Sextet debuting Tommy Turrentine’s “It Could Be”)

His knowledge of jazz and the people who played it is one of the reasons why, though the public’s favorite Turrentine was Stanley, many musicians still remember Tommy with great respect and fondness.

(Tommy Turrentine from the NYPL’s Jazz Oral History Series (1993))

Recommended Recordings:

This is the final post in the Obscure Trumpet Masters Series. I’m humbled to know that so many jazz fans and musicians have taken the time to read all or part of this labor of love.  Special thanks to Brian Lynch, Dave Douglas and Jason Parker (three modern-day trumpet masters who deserve to be heard more often) for their words and tweets of encouragement.

I also appreciate the suggestions from everyone, for other fine artists who should be on this list. Since this was never intended to be an exhaustive study, I knew that there would be many great, underappreciated players who would not be mentioned. But I say to fans of trumpet masters such as Dupree Bolton, Richard Williams, Guido Basso, Tomasz Stanko, Howard McGhee and many others; y’all have given me some food for thought and additional study. Hmmm…perhaps there will be a second series.

Thanks again to all of you!

Obscure Trumpet Masters #9 – Idrees Sulieman

Posted in Obscure Trumpet Masters with tags , , , on March 21, 2011 by curtjazz

Idrees Sulieman (1923 – 2002)

The thing to realize about Idrees is that he went back to the very beginnings of bebop, took part in some of the most interesting hard bop of the ’50s with Coltrane and others, played lead for Tadd Dameron alongside Clifford Brown; he…was still stretching and sounding as modern as anyone in the ’70s, ’80s, and even in the ’90s. – Brian Lynch

“Bell-clear tone, swings hard, creative soloist – Find more of his stuff!!”

Those are the words I scribbled on a scrap of paper about Idrees Sulieman when I first heard him 25 years ago, on an album called The CatsI found that paper about a year ago, inside that LP’s sleeve.  It caused me to go back and start revisiting Mr. Sulieman’s work… I’m still impressed.

Born Leonard Graham in St. Petersburg, FL, in 1923; he changed his name to Idrees Sulieman when he converted to Islam. Sulieman originally wanted to be a sax player, but switched to the trumpet because his father could not afford a saxophone.  (During the ‘60’s, Sulieman again picked up the alto sax and became fairly proficient) Sulieman studied at the Boston Conservatory and gained early experience with the Carolina Cotton Pickers.  He left to join the Earl Hines Big Band in 1943. Bird and Diz were both in the Hines Band then and it had a profound effect on Sulieman. Diz’s play inspired Sulieman to perfect his own style.

During the mid ‘40’s, in addition to Hines, Sulieman logged time with Mary Lou Williams, Cab Calloway and Thelonious Monk. In fact, Sulieman’s played on Monk’s first sides, in 1947. By the mid’50’s, he had found his niche as a top flight bebop sideman. He appeared on Max Roach’s first studio album in 1953 and alongside Gigi Gryce on Mal-1, Mal Waldron’s first disc.

This is “Humph” from Monk’s Genius of Modern Music – Volume 1, which includes some of those ’47 sessions:

Other notable turns as a sideman or co-leader include The Hawk Flies High a Coleman Hawkins session, with Hank Jones, J.J. Johnson, Oscar Pettiford and Papa Jo Jones (Check out “Juicy Fruit” – Sulieman holds a single note for 57 seconds, thanks to circular breathing techniques.);  Interplay for 2 Trumpets and 2 Tenors, along with John Coltrane, Donald Byrd and Bobby Jaspar; Coolin’ with vibraphonist Teddy Charles and Waldron; Three Trumpets with Byrd and Art Farmer and the aforementioned The Cats with Coltrane, Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Burrell, Louis Hayes and Doug Watkins.  Their version of Flanagan’s “Minor Mishap”(below)  is on my list of all-time favorite jazz performances.

The early ‘60’s saw Sulieman moving to Stockholm, where he played with Eric Dolphy, Bud Powell and Don Byas. He cut his first disc as a leader, The Camel, for Swedish Columbia, in 1964. He also returned to big band work, with a decade’s worth of fine recordings with the Clarke-Boland Big Band and the Danish Radio Orchestra, after moving to Copenhagen.

Although Sulieman was on the scene for parts of six decades, his discography as a leader is surprisingly thin.  His three albums for Steeplechase are all available. The best of these is Now Is The Time, from 1976, with Cedar Walton, Sam Jones and Higgins. Though it was almost 20 years after The Cats, Sulieman was as strong and swinging as ever.

Though he performed sparingly during his later years, Sulieman remained a prolific composer.  His estate includes a horde of compositions that were never recorded.  Trumpeter Don Sickler’s publishing company, Second Floor Music, published the tunes but much of it is still unperformed. Brian Lynch has begun to rectify that, by recording four Sulieman works on his recent Unsung Heroes project.

Sulieman died of bladder cancer in his native St. Petersburg on July 23, 2002. He left an impressive and eclectic body of work that should be heard; though it takes a bit of cross referencing to find.

Trust me, he’s worth it.

Recommended Recordings: