Phil Woods ‘Warm Woods’

Phil Woods ‘Warm Woods’ is of the greatest jazz releases on @epicrecords and the perfect soundtrack to this blustery, chilly day here in New York. Ignore the review at All Music Guide, which is numerically inconsistent with its verbiage, and both are inconsistent with the quality of this set, which is SUPERB. Woods has a beautiful, unique, recognizable tone on alto sax “Dr. Wu”…’nuff said), and he leads a fine quartet here that includes Bob Corwin-piano, Sonny Dallas-bass, and Nick Stabulas-drums. All of the material is either ballad or mid-tempo, and except for two original compositions by Woods, the rest of the program is comprised of standards. While tempos may not get your heart racing, the amount of heart that’s poured into every performance is HUGE, and if some of these pieces don’t give you a big case of the feels, you might want to step away from ‘Tiger King’ for a little while and get into some deep headphone/jazz communion to recharge your soul. The two sessions for this LP were recorded in October and November of 1957, and the album was issued the following year. This pressing is a Japanese reissue from 1973, ECPZ-8, mono. I like how this sounds in mono, though I’ve not heard a stereo pressing to compare. It was reissued on vinyl in the 1980s with a different cover, and various CD issues over the years have matched it with other sessions and/or bonus tracks. I do not see it on digital platforms…will have to see if something can be done about that as more ears need to hear this one

Grant Green ‘Feelin’ the Spirit’

Recorded 21 Dec 1962, ‘Feelin’ the Spirit’ was the last of the “theme” records Green would explore that year. Having previously gone west and then south of the border in previous sessions, Green recruited pianist Herbie Hancock and the ace rhythm duo of bassist Butch Warren and drummer Billy Higgins to take us all to church. The material is a collection of familiar spirituals like “Joshua Fit de Battle ob Jericho” and “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”, transmogrified into modern, soulful hard bop. The approach here ranges from reflective to celebratory, with the blues running deeply throughout. The interplay between Green and Hancock is marvelous, and while the tempos never really swing hard, the intensity is palpable. This is 1979 Japanese King pressing GXK 8117, stereo, a reissue of BST 84132. Preach

John Coltrane ‘Coltrane’s Sound’

Coltrane’s studio work in the final week of Oct 1960 produced the acclaimed and hugely popular ‘My Favorite Things’, the lesser-known but essential ‘Coltrane Plays the Blues’, and the middle child whose strengths and qualities have only become more apparent over the years, ‘Coltrane’s Sound’. I could pontificate about the track “Equinox” for hours—far and away my favorite @johncoltrane original, and one of my favorite jazz songs, EVER. The emotional wallop this tune packs knocks me flat every time. The power, gravitas and solemnity that pours forth from the speakers when this song plays is felt as much as heard. If it doesn’t give you the feels, see a doctor immediately. The other three originals and two standards are also amazingly played, and I underscore the word “amazing” because this is only the THIRD TIME pianist McCoy Tyner and the SECOND TIME drummer Elvin Jones had recorded with ‘Trane. It’s certainly fun to over-analyze the three albums that these sessions produced, comparing, contrasting and discussing them to rank them within the pantheon of Coltrane’s @atlanticrecords era. When I’m in that frame of mind, I tend to reach for this album more often than the other two. But ultimately it’s more satisfying to consider them as one body of work and play them all! This pressing is a Japanese reissue, mono, part of the Jazz Analog Premium Collection produced by Kouki Hanawa WPJR-10053/Atlantic ‎– 1419 @mccoytyner

Kenny Dorham/Jackie McLean ‘Inta Somethin’

Great set of advanced hard bop recorded live at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco 13 Nov 1961. The set is mostly standards, plus a blues-based original and (most notably) the first appearance of Dorham’s “Us” (aka “Una Mas”) which he’d truly nail in April ’63 with Mighty Joe Henderson in the sax chair. But back to Nov ’61, the Dorham/McLean frontline work marvelously together. McLean—who was definitely wearing a bit of Coltrane on his sleeve that night—was slowly inching towards the more progressive sounds he’d find in 1963, and Dorham was also enjoying the edges of hard bop but there aren’t yet many sharp angles in their playing. Instead, they channel their more adventurous impulses into intensity, with “Lover Man” and “It Could Happen To You” being exceptionally well-played. All-star points to pianist Walter Bishop Jr. who sounds like he’s been playing with these guys for years. Bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Art Taylor bring plenty of finesse and swing—if you like your hard bop served up sizzling, you’ll be happy the tape was rolling that night. This is Japanese reissue from 1978 via King Records GXF-3119 of Pacific Jazz PJ-41, stereo

Woody Shaw ‘Stepping Stones: Live at the Village Vanguard’

Dracarys!🔥Killer live set marked by energy, passion, precision and effortless swing in a charged club atmosphere. There’s a *LOT* going on here. Eschewing the commercial elements that dragged both jazz and fusion down in the 70s, Shaw’s band is fully engaged—no missed opportunities, wasted notes, grandstanding, going through the motions, or phoning it in. The quintet takes things from telepathic simmer to modal boil until the intensity gets so fierce it feels like things are about to go off the rails. This is one of *THE* live jazz records to own. The recording quality is jaw-droppingly marvelous—each instrument sits in the mix exactly where you’d picture it—crisp, clear and perfectly balanced. It has plenty of live ambience but enough polish to please even the most discerning audiophile. It’s also widely available across a variety of formats, including the highly recommended Complete Columbia Albums collection which adds an entire second disc of performances from the same August 5/6 1978 Village Vanguard shows that gave us this original LP, all in that same superb sound quality. I’m fond of this Japanese reissue from 1978 CBS/Sony 25AP 1175 which is a superb pressing. The band: Woody Shaw-cornet, Carter Jefferson-tenor/soprano sax, Onaje Allan Gumbs-piano, Clint Houston-bass, & Victor Lewis-Drums. I’m on the hunt for a Japanese pressing of Woody Shaw’s masterpiece ‘Rosewood’ (my favorite jazz record EVER) CBS/Sony 25AP 977…if anyone has a copy for sale/trade, please DM @woodyshawlegacy

Takeo Moriyama East Plants

Takeo Moriyama ‘East Plants’

Don’t know this record? You’re not alone. Issued in tiny quantities back in 1983 on a small Japanese label, Takeo Moriyama’s ‘East Plants’ would have remained adrift in the ocean of obscurity if it weren’t for the hard work and support of @bacoso @the_jazz_dad @bbemusic and Takeo himself, who reissued this gem last year in a truly first class manner. The original single LP on the VAP label would probably set you back a few hundred bucks. Now for under $25, you can pick up this stunning 2-LP 180g reissue. It’s beautifully packaged in an obi-wrapped gatefold sleeve reproducing the original cover art which includes interesting liner notes. The music itself covers a lot of ground, moving from modal and spiritual voyages to the center of the cosmos to energetic post-bop and even occasional raga-like, meditative moments; all excellently played by a piano-less quintet: Takeo Moriyama (drums) Syuichi Enomoto & Toshihiko Inoue (tenor/soprano sax) Hideaki Mochizuki (bass) and Yohji Sadanari (percussion). As one might expect from a drummer-led project, rhythms take center-stage here and the drumming/percussion is ridiculously impressive throughout. A taste of this LP is available on the highly recommended J-Jazz compilation, and this full length record comes equally highly recommended. Terrific stuff. Available on digital platforms too

Workin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet

Choosing a favorite amongst these four essential Miles albums released by Prestige featuring his classic quintet—Workin’ With, Relaxin’ With, Steamin’ With & Cookin’ With—it’s tough to pick a favorite. Today it’s ‘Workin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet’ as I’m obsessed with the opening ballad “It Never Entered My Mind”, a Rogers & Hart number that Miles had previously done a couple of years earlier with Horace Silver. This performance is on a whole other level though—awe inspiring to the point of transcendent. Give it a listen…if it doesn’t give you all the feels, check yourself for a pulse. Seriously. This track is all about Miles, Red Garland and Paul Chambers…John Coltrane plays only two notes. Both of them just right. “It Never Entered My Mind” answers lots of questions like “Why jazz?” Or “Why Miles?” Or “What do you mean by ‘feel’ in music?” The historical importance and context of the four albums that resulted from these two sessions (11 May and 26 Oct 1956) is better told elsewhere, but the 26 songs recorded over those two days—all first takes—are pure magic. My fascination with this one track from this one LP is just the tip of the iceberg. This is a sweet sounding mono pressing from 1975, a Japanese reissue SMJ-6503M of Prestige PRLP 7166 @milesdavis @johncoltrane @prestigerecords @prestigejazz

Kenny Dorham ‘Trompeta Toccata’

A stone cold classic among Kenny Dorham’s many stone cold classics! Joe Henderson is a superb sparring partner—his tenor bite is the ideal foil to Dorham’s trumpet bark (albeit an often sweet bark). Henderson also contributes the tune “Mamacita” which is hellagroovy. This session was recorded 14 Sept 1964 and produced four lengthy tracks, all infused with Latino and/or classical sensibilities. This is consistent with one of Dorham’s many strengths—he could remain rooted enough in tradition while simultaneously exploring new musical territory. As new vistas in jazz were leading to experimentations in song structure, world music influences and harmonic constructs, he was more than skilled in ratcheting up the compositional complexity, and building a band capable of executing the ideas. The linchpin in this lineup is bassist Richard Davis, whom Dorham and Henderson had played with several months earlier on Andrew Hill’s experimental post-bop classic ‘Point of Departure’ and Joe Henderson’s adventurous ‘In n Out’. Together, they inject ‘Trompeta Toccata’ with a bevy of toe-tapping complexity, and it’s simply marvelous. Sadly, this was to be Dorham’s final session as a leader, his activities winding down to sideman work over the following years until succumbing to kidney disease in 1972. I don’t mean to neglect the contributions of pianist Tommy Flanagan who contributes some fine solos, nor drummer Albert Heath though they are somewhat overshadowed by the aforementioned triple threat of Dorham/Henderson/Davis. This is a 1985 Japanese reissue Blue Note ‎– BNJ-71074/BST 84181

Grant Green ‘Oleo’

There’s a synergy between guitarist Grant Green and pianist Sonny Clark that makes all the sessions they recorded in the five week period between 23 Dec 1961 and 31 Jan 1962 essential listening. Quality however doesn’t necessarily run consistently with A&R decisions and as Green’s more commercially leaning soul jazz proclivities were Blue Note’s focus, none were released during Green’s lifetime. When they were finally rolled out of the vault in the 80s and split into individual albums, vinyl availability was limited to Japan for two of those three sessions. Blue Note has since compiled them into a double CD (“The Complete Grant Green/Sonny Clark Quartets”) which is spectacular, but for the vinyl hounds this release ‘Oleo’ was the last of the sessions Green/Clark did together and issued by King in Japan in 1980 as part of the “Worlds First Appearance” series (GXF 3065). Like “Gooden’s Corner”, this one features Sam Jones on bass and Louis Hayes on drums supporting the melodic interplay between Green and Clark, with highlights being the Green original “Hip Funk”, a fun take on Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo” and a ripping run at “My Favorite Things”. Sonically, this Japanese pressing sounds pretty terrific though truth be told, the double CD sounds as good and costs less. Besides, the CD contains the equally brilliant work of the other sessions including the crowning achievement: the Green/Clark Quartet (with Art Blakey on drums) turning “It Ain’t Necessarily So” on its head—you gotta hear it. Of the LPs that reveal the awesomeness of these sessions—“Oleo”, “Gooden’s Corner”, and “Nigeria”—this one is the least essential but STILL ESSENTIAL. Again, pick up the CD and you get it all and it’s all pretty great