Friday, 10 December 2021

2021 - A new category!

This year has been extraordinary for re-releases, and having received (or purchased) quite a lot of material that hasn't been available for a long time, either on CD or vinyl I thought it only appropriate to start new category. Given the enormous out-pouring of revived material from Blue Note Records in particular I've though long an hard about how many to choose, and I decided, because this is a new category that this year I'd limit it to three. This made it very difficult - and in the end excluded some of the recordings that, perhaps, in another year would have made it. The Blue Note material that came closest to inclusion were Dexter Gordan's "One flight up" which originally came out in 1964 and McCoy Tyner's "Expansions" from 1968, but in the end neither made it - though some of the releases promised for 2022 must be in line to make the cut at the end of the year.
   Incidentally I've wondered along the way how much some of the material they've re-released was ever bought in the UK - probably, I guess, only by collectors and avid Blue Note philes!
  Finally, before I list the chosen three a word for "John Coltrane - Live in Seattle", which I found extremely disappointing, badly mixed and with ambient crowd noise, with McCoy Tyner on top form, but too little Coltrane - go back to the original!

3. "Merci Miles-live at Vienne" - Miles Davis.

A good indication of where Miles Davis was heading in 1991. Some extended tracks especially 'Hannibal', written by Marcus Miller, and a couple of Prince written tracks, all driven along by a two bass player band with Kenny Garrett on sax and Deron Johnson on keyboards, fluently led by some wonderful improvisation by Miles Davis. Yes, it's rough round the edges on some tracks, but for the most part it swaggers, and it picks up where the Warner studio albums might have been headed if the band had been given the space to expand into the space they find here. I guess, it's a 'marmite' album, and not what early and middle period Miles fans will want to hear, but for me a really great re-release (if any of it was ever released by a major label before!).

2. "Groovin' at Small's Paradise" - Jimmy Smith.

My original (second hand) copy of Volume 2 on vinyl has just about expired as a useful album to play, and I never owned Volume 1. How wonderful, therefore to find almost all of both volumes on  CD - it actually omits "Imagination" because of the limitations of the single CD format. Nonetheless it's really rewarding to sit down nad hear and soak up the atmosphere that was created by the trio. Eddie McFadden on guitar and Donald Bailey on drums, are an integral part of the overall ambience, but it's Smith and his B3 who burn throughout this 1957 session. Congraulations to Jazz Image Records (Spanish based, I think) for the repackaging and the information provided by the packaging. It's an album that I've say down and listened to in its entireity several times and the only word I can use to describe it is 'burning'.

1. "The Montreux Years" - Nina Simone.

Given what I've written elsewhere not, I would imagine, a great surprise!  Parts of this have been released on the French Barclay label, but nothing as much as this wonderful BMG compilation two CD set. CD 2 is given over to a fairly seamless concert, one in which Simone built the audience from relative apathy to a heightened climax - there are even tracks omitted from this 1968 recording that appear on CD1. CD 1 also has tracks from her appearances at the 1976, 1981,1987 and 1990 performances. Probably the 1976 tracks are the finest, but given the relative poverty of some of the recent Nina Simine re-releases, this one eclipses them all. The set is copiously annotated and together they give a great impression of an artist working hard with an audeince, and in places with versions that somehow exceed the best of other studio based recordings.
Essential listening!

For details of what has made my Top 10 albums of 2021, come back here soon - they'll be revealed 5 at a time!

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