contemporaryrecords

Woody Shaw ‘Blackstone Legacy’

Recording for this gem occurred during this week in 1970. Inevitable comparisons to @milesdavis ‘Bitches Brew’ continue, but they ring slightly hollow to my ears. BBrew was the Big Bang of jazz/rock fusion. ‘Blackstone Legacy’ is 100% jazz through and through. The record is amped with a healthy dose of electricity via George Cables on electric piano, and the presence of some bass clarinet courtesy of the amazing Bennie Maupin, which might trick you into thinking about BBrew, but this record doesn’t have any rock music DNA at all. Instead, immerse yourself in electrified post-bop, inside/outside modal journeys that are all fairly long, with enough free elements to be surprising, challenging and engaging. Shaw and Bartz are clearly having a lot of fun playing together, and Maupin picks up both tenor sax and flute to join in as well. Standup bass duties fall to the legendary Ron Carter, while electric bass is wielded by Clint Houston who would collaborate frequently with Shaw for years to come. Houston wrote the track “Sunshowers” on Shaw’s breakout ‘Rosewood’ LP (my fave jazz record EVER) which is one its most endearing tracks. Finally, future Return to Forever drummer Lenny White just kills it on skins, hitting them with a fast, firm punch without ever overplaying. All compositions are by either Shaw or Cables. This is a first pressing on Contemporary S7627/8, stereo. Wild stuff

Curtis Counce Group ‘Landslide’

Bassist Curtis Counce formed his working quartet in 1956, and over 15 months they cut roughly four LPs of material for producer Lester Koenig’s Contemporary label. ‘Landslide’ was the first to be released in 1957 (also issued in mono as The Curtis Counce Group C-3526). All of the Curtis Counce quintet’s albums are worth hearing, but I’m particularly drawn to this one and the follow-up ‘You Get More Bounce With Curtis Counce!’ ‘Landslide’ has several notable performances. The title track by Harold Land is a burner with an extra gold star going to Jack Sheldon—his trumpet work across the album is uniformly terrific but on this track in particular it’s STELLAR. (Side note—Sheldon is the voice of School House Rock’s “Bill on Capitol Hill” and “Conjunction Junction” for those with fond memories of 1970s morning television). The other album highlight is the quintet’s take on Kenny Clarke/Gerald Wiggins’ “Sonar” which to my ears is the album highlight. The quintet blends “west coast” cool jazz and hard bop brilliantly, and while each player brings their “A” game, please direct your ears towards Frank Butler’s superb drum work. Butler is *SO* dialed in to every moment, leading or supporting with a nearly telepathic ease. He’s not an especially flashy player, so when he steps up with a fill or roll to accentuate a moment, or when he puts a bit of extra muscle into his bass pedal work, it changes the vibe of the entire group dynamic and the feel of song. Remarkable. Finally, high marks for how well engineer Roy DuNann captured this session—every instrument is clear and perfectly balanced. Great listen! Curtis Counce (bass), Jack Sheldon (trumpet), Harold Land (tenor sax), Carl Perkins (piano), & Frank Butler (drums