Jazz Mergers & Acquisitions
T. K. Blue
Saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker is primarily remembered as an incendiary, revolutionary, improvisatory soloist, but he often expressed his style through composition, and many of Parker's original tunes became part of the modern jazz canon. Latin Bird, saxophonist T.K. Blue's label debut for Motema, his ninth release as a leader, reworks eight of Parker's tunes in Afro-Cuban, Brazilian, Caribbean and related rhythmic styles.
Blue serves as musical director for pianist Randy Weston, with whom he's played for more than three decades, and also serves as Director of Jazz Studies at Long Island (NY) University's C.W. Post Campus. But the first time he studied Charlie Parker, Blue recalls, "It just messed up my mind completely."
Blue doesn't really play alto in Parker's firebrand style (who does?) so the real star of Latin Bird isn't Parker, or even Blue, but Blue's arrangements of Parker's tunes, along with a Blue version of the timeless "'Round Midnight" and his solo improvisation "He Flew Away Too Soon."
The first two tunes"Chi Chi" and "Si Si"and closing "Buzzy," all played in two three clave, burn with the piano and percussive fire of Latin jazz. In "Si Si," Blue and Steve Turre hide sly Thelonious Monk references within the first lines of their alto and trombone solos; pianist Theo Hill and the percussion battery swirl in vibrant Latin rhythms and colors. Parker's melody laughs as it dances through Blue's bright calypso arrangement of "Barbardos." Trap drums beat and roll a refreshing New Orleans second line bounce into "Visa," which is otherwise just the sort of jumpy, angular melody that led some to call Parker's bebop "Chinese music."
Parker was also a great blues player, and Blue makes sure to paint much of his Latin Bird portrait in blue: Turre's trombone and Hill's piano trace the deep creases of Parker's melody, then snuggle down into the soft thick layers of "Blue Bird." Blue's alto verses inject depth and passion into this stark and quiet "'Round Midnight," at first in conversation with just bassist Essiet Okon Essiet until piano and drum enter gently. "Moods of Parker" (Blue's original, inspired by Bird's own "Parker's Mood") opens dramatically and then instantly stretches out into a relaxed, slow-rolling blues that seems to simultaneously laugh and crythe least Latin, but most straight up blue, tune.
Blue dedicates Latin Bird to trombone player Benny Powell, who was scheduled to appear on these sessions but passed away from complications after surgery, and in whose honor Blue improvises the solo piece "He Flew Away Too Soon."
Todd Clouser's A Love Electric
"A Love Electric is possibility and energy," explains guitarist, composer and bandleader Todd Clouser. "I come from a rock place as a player. I still love Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and the total madness in noise, even if I'm listening to Charlie Parker, Monk, or Wayne Shorter more often these days."
"All that was once new was initially regarded as 'out,' 'nasty,' and 'evil,' from Robert Johnson to Ornette Coleman to electric Miles Davis to electric Dylan," he concludes. "That's the stuff that feels real to me and it's always been that way."
After his musical education at Berklee, Clouser relocated to Baja, Mexico, to simultaneously pursue his muse and a less frantic lifestyle. The first two albums he released from the Baja so impressively caught the ear of trumpet conceptualist Steven Bernstein that the trumpeter toured Mexico in 2009 and 2010 with Clouser co-leading Bernstein's band. Clouser's guitar and trumpet from Bernstein and Kelly Rossum are the primary solo instruments on A Love Electric.
In the opening "Serenity Now," Clouser demonstrates his diverse, almost encyclopedic, guitar approach while his tune descends into a chaotic free guitar/trumpet duel passage until the crack of the unifying downbeat steers the ensemble safely home. "Curtis" exercises a steamy soul-jazz-rock workout with hot trumpet blasting like artillery fire. "Brass Suite 1970" busts out the funk from that same decade: drummer Greg Schutte kicks out a plump backbeat, bassist Adam Linz churns up its undertow, and Clouser's guitar continually nudges farther and deeper into blues-rock space.
Clouser's Hammond organ/guitar blues shuffle "Littlest Number" swings from the frame of his phased-reverb guitar hook. "The Border at Pachacan" seems to return Clouser to Mexico, a colorful panorama decorated with acoustic piano and percussion that accent its Latin tinge so evocatively that you can imagine Booker T. & the MGs jamming this tune in a Mexican cantina. Guitar and companion trumpets next paint a somber "Autumn City Portrait."