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Flux Music Essentials

Greeting’s jazz connoisseurs, I’m back with yet another intriguing palette of creative music from some of today’s most unique, adventurous and inspiring voices known and unknown artists alike in the world of jazz.

Hiromi - Brain (Telarc, 2004)

Hiromi -][- Brain – [Telarc, 2004]

She’s got prodigious piano technique, brains and beauty (as six full-page photos included with the CD make abundantly clear), incredible energy, and lots of “mo” (is there any young instrumentalist who is bigger at the present moment?). All of which may raise some suspicions among closer followers of the jazz scene, past and present.

Admittedly, I was impressed but not captivated after a first listen. The tracks with synthesizer, the all-original program of “descriptive,” “programmatic” titles, the packaging–it smacked of commercialism and new-age aesthetics. But I recall having a similar reaction to Ahmad Jamal the first time I heard him. He didn’t employ harmonies like Art Tatum, swing like Oscar, fill up the space with complex melodic lines like Bud Powell. But over time it became clear that Ahmad was the master colorist of them all, a painter of musical tone poems that could be infinitely suggestive if not mesmerizing. Hiromi, who was “discovered” and first produced by Ahmad, has the same affinities.

Listen to “Desert on the Moon.” It ‘s a bubbling piece, more suggestive of a mountain stream in its progress through a variety of moods, tempos, textures, and dynamic contrasts. Every moment is alive and purposeful, as Hiromi takes us on a journey from rippling, impressionist passages to sharply-defined pointillism (she has some musical karate chops!) to unabashed romantic lyricism (an unapologetic allusion to “My One and Only Love”), finally bringing the force of the whole to an explosive, climactic conclusion, then just as seamlessly providing a tranquil, restorative coda.

Her piano technique extends beyond mere virtuosity. She gets a bright, pure and round sound from the instrument that is absolutely consistent in all registers and at soft as well as loud volumes. Moreover, this recording is probably the best that I’ve ever heard a piano sound on CD. If you have any sort of half-way decent stereo system, Hiromi and her Yamaha Concert Grand will be bigger than life in your living room. Better make room because from the evidence on this disk, she’ll be around for a long time to come. —Samuel Chell | Amazon.com

Idris Muhammad - Power of Soul

Idris Muhammad -][- Power of Soul – [CTI, 1974]

This is Idris Muhammad’s best album as a leader, and deserves to finally be released on CD. The band is first rate: Grover Washington knocks out some great solos with Joe Beck, Randy Brecker, and Bob James adding splashes of color to the mix. The Hendrix-penned title cut, with its horn punches and heavy backbeat might be the most rocking thing producer Creed Taylor ever put to tape. The other three tracks on this album don’t offer any new revelations, but settle into a mellow groove that really simmers in places.

Piece of Mind” (my favorite song here), has a gritty urban feel, while “The Saddest Thing” and “Loran’s Dance” feature catchy, pretty melodies. As this date’s leader, Idris Muhammad doesn’t offer extraneous frills or drum pyrotechnics–he seems to be more concerned about doing what he does best: laying down the tightest groove possible. —Keith Haysaka | Amazon.com

Brad Mehldau - The Art of The Trio Vol.4

Brad Mehldau -][- The Art of the Trio Vol.4 – [Nonesuch, 2005]

As a working Jazz pianist myself, I can only say that Brad Mehldau does everything I dream of, and even more that I’ve never imagined. With this album in particular, he seems to ascend to even greater heights in his imaginative treatment of both standards and original pieces. “All the Things You Are” in 7/4 is worth (many times over) the price of the CD for the solo playing of each of the members, as well as their trio interaction. I’ve never heard 7/4 actually swing in such an amazing way.

Mehldau’s original pieces are beautiful and at times haunting, and it seems that each time he records a song, he and the trio are able to bring something entirely new to the musical table. Not just new solos, but a new approach and freshness rarely heard on even the first outing of compositions for most groups. After probably 40 complete listening, I can honestly say that the disk is still fresh and (awe) inspiring. –Thomas C. Zink | Amazon.com

Quincy Jones - Smackwater Jack

Quincy Jones -][- Smackwater Jack – [A&M Jazz, 1971]

The important reason to jump for joy for Universal releasing this A&M gem is that the original,unedited version of “What’s Goin’ On” is included. Sure,it includes a lame vocal by Q,but when the band kicks in,this thing just swings like Marvin Gaye could never imagined. A true all-star effort,this includes solos by Freddy Hubbard,trumpet,Toots Thielmans tripling up on guitar,harmonica and whistling,Milt Jackson,vibes,Jim Hall,guitar,and Harry Lookofsky’s strings mimicking Toot’s earlier harp solo. This sucker clocks in at just under 10 minutes!

Another interesting track is the “Guitar Blues Odyssey”, which is a 50 year history lesson in blues guitar condensed to 6:38 and featuring four guitarists taking nine solos:Jim Hall and Toots, again, along with Eric Gale and Joe Beck-from Robert Johnson to Jimi Hendrix and into outer space…and back again to Robert Johnson, which is where the blues was headed in 1971. —Jimac51 | Amazon.com

..:: Source: Amazon.com ::..