Capsule Reviews: Billy Hart, Albert Ayler, JD Allen


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Billy Hart—Sixty Eight (Steeplechase, 2011) Drummer Billy Hart leads a fine group consisting of Jason Palmer on trumpet, Logan Richardson on alto saxophone, Michael Pinto on vibraphone, Dan Tepfer on piano and Chris Tordini on bass. They play fine mix of adventurous mid-60's centered hard bop and thoughtful ballads. The focus on ensemble play, with fine group playing, and no heroes trying to dominate the music. There's a great setlist, playing songs from the likes of Eric Dolphy, “Number Eight" and “Out There," Sam Rivers, “Beatrice" and “Cyclic Episode," Ornette Coleman and others. Sixty-Eight—amazon.com

Albert Ayler—Spirits (Debut, 1964, re-released by 1201 Music) Fine free jazz from an early (his first I believe) New York City Ayler session. Haunting themes, stark saxophone pervade the music, as only he could. Accompanied by Norman Howard on trumpet, Henry Grimes or Earle Henderson on bass and Sunny Murray on drums, the music is wide open with Ayler and Murray dominating on the themes “Spirits" and “Holy Holy." Even at this early stage, Ayler was using folk and spiritual themes as jumping of points for improvisation, setting the stage for his classic Spiritual Unity, recorded later that year. The combination of Ayler and Murray is particularly potent, driving each other to greater heights of rhythm. Spirits—amazon.com

JD Allen—Victory! (Sunnyside, 2011) Cutting to the core of the modern mainstream in jazz with short tracks on an LP length album featuring music akin to middle period Coltrane in their solemnity and power. Allen plays tenor saxophone in the company of Gregg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. He has been working in the trio format over the past several years and it suits his music very well. Hints of freedom like the Sonny Rollins trios of the 50's and the Ornette Coleman trios of the 60's are here along with a strong melodic sense and a stern self-discipline. They are particularly compelling on the strongly articulated “The Pilot's Compass" and “Motif" with potent saxophone and deep bass and drum support developing a cohesive whole. Victory!—amazon.com

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This story appears courtesy of Music and More by Tim Niland.
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