Friday, June 26, 2009

Robust Darkness in the Music of Szilard Mezei

Violist-composer Szilard Mezei favors a slightly darker palette than the norm. For a recent album on Leo, We Were Watching the Rain (which I reviewed for Cadence), his ensemble included the lower-registered sounds of the tuba, bass clarinet, and trombone. It may be the the less brilliant, more mellow range of the viola (as compared with the violin) has influenced the group sound he envisions. Whatever the case his music is distinctive in this way, and in other ways as well.

That Leo disc was without a rhythm section and the emphasis was on a chamber kind of sound. The recording we consider today, As You (Ayler, Download Series), includes bass and drums (along with tuba and cello). That addition gives contrast to the end result vis-a-vis the Leo session. It successfully propulses the group further into the free blowing, free rhythm areas of Szilard's stylistic outlook.

The Serbian-Yugoslavian born Mezei plays viola with a kind of presence that brings out the thicker, darker potentialities of the instrument, and of course that fits with the above. The compositions are at least equally important, if not paramount to his musical approach. They are brooding meditations that come alive, enhanced by the group improvisations and solo spotlights that occur as the music unfolds. Everyone in this ensemble is capable of sensitive interplay and that quality is one of the salient aspects of this strong set.

If I am not wrong, we have not heard the last from Szilard Mezei. Growth seems inevitable. As You not only shows the artists' potential. It is a fully formed, dramatic statement and a musical document that absorbs the sympathetic listener at every turn.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Group "Transit" Scales Improvisational Heights

Some of the new improv/jazz out there today does not follow the head-solos-head format that has been so pervasive in the music. It goes somewhere else, and in the process breaks down the distinction contained within that format. Instead, the music takes what I'd like to call a "concert-gagaku" approach to things. I mean that there is a sensitivity to the combination of sounds and instruments (the "gagaku" part) and a sort of intuitive, mentally mapped-out approach to what each performance will accomplish (the "concert-improv" part).

Everything is a head and nothing is a head. All of it is soloing and none of it is. There is also an almost ritual fervor with which the musicians go about their art. Japanese gagaku is I think the oldest surviving example of such a music-making path. I refer to the heightened awareness of the importance of the sound emission of the moment as a kind of cosmic reality outside of everyday life, and the intense commitment to that reality. Whether the musicians involved would put it that way I'm not sure. It is that exacting ritualistic intensity of purpose that comes through to me on this end, regardless. And that makes for some extraordinary music.

I allude above to a new CD by Transit, called Quadrologues (Clean Feed). Transit is a quartet with Reuben Radding on bass, a player with big ears and the ability to execute what he hears. He did a remarkable thing a while ago. Once a month he offered a free download of an improv session, each with a different lineup of players, for an entire year. I've listen to them all and they give me great respect for his approach. (Google Mr. Radding's site if you want to hear them.) On some of those is trumpeter Nate Wooley, who makes up one-fourth of Transit here as well. Wooley most certainly is also a musician of discerning ears and carefully creative execution. He has done some nice work with The Magical Listening Hour, a wide-open chamber improv group with trombonist Steve Swell and others. Both Radding and Wooley bring to Transit that ineffable set of qualities I am talking about.

Nate and Reuben are joined in the group by drummer Jeff Arnal and alto sax man Seth Misterika. I don't believe I've had the pleasure of hearing either before but they add a cosmic energy and concept to the proceedings on a par with the others. The CD that results has a flow and musical logic that comes out of the immediate moment of the performance, yet stands up well to repeated listenings. It's as if the players had a clear mental map of the music they wanted to make, and then went ahead and realized it all in sound.

I was taken by Quadrologues. It has that certain something the best improv gives you today. I hope they continue to perform together and I get to hear it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cromagnon: Cave Rock Both Retro and Ahead of Its Time

1969. The rather obscure band Cromagnon completes their first (and only?) album. It comes out on ESP Disk. The world does not change discernibly. So you were expecting that? No. June 2009. ESP re-releases the album. The world does not change discernibly. By now nobody is expecting that.

The world turns on its axis today, like every day. “Cave Rock” won’t change that. However it is one of those supremely weirdsville sorts of records from ESP that helped define what underground music was all about, could be, and still is. Most of the album is a kind of collage-like freakout of grunts, groans, chants, sound effects and other oddities. It’s quite amusing and could only have been made in 1969.

On the other hand, there’s one cut, “Caledonia,” that is just incredible. I first heard it on a second wave ESP sampler and my yodeling friends and I were stunned. It’s that sort of a number. Bagpipes, throbbing guitars, pounding drums in a primitive mode and hoarse whisper-shout vocals. It is not to be missed. It manages simultaneously to be retro-psych, completely ahead of its time, and timeless. The vocal anticipates the sort of thrash and death metal croakings that gave a personality to some of the underground rock offerings of the ‘80s through to today.

That was so interesting about the ‘60s underground music scene. It wasn’t rigidly divided into genre camps and it was totally unpredictable. It often created innovations that influenced and partly determined the musics to come. Though excesses could occur, it was a much needed counterweight to the pop-pap hegemony that filled the airwaves most of the time. Listen to “Caledonia” and you’ll appreciate how it was, and could still be. Maybe it IS.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tower of Power Live Set Unearthed

Funk. When it was new, the form had enormous power and the ability to liberate rhythm to a higher level of intensity. When I think of the music, I think especially of three bands. Of course there was James Brown and his associates. What he did from, say, 1964 through 1970 was to almost single-handedly transform the function of the rhythm section and the riffs that lay on top of that. Listen to "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" with a fresh ear and you'll hear a landmark of the music.

Second, there was Funkadelic, who stretched the form and added new dimensions to what was supposed to be done. There were other bands too of course. But the third one that sticks out in my head is Tower of Power. Through a series of albums beginning with East Bay Grease through to Drop it in the Slot in the mid-'70s, they crafted incredibly tight arrangements that let the rhythm instruments groove freely. And those horns, they just were the best around for precision funkifying.

Now perhaps that kind of music has gotten a little tired. Blame disco, bad radio, blame endless luke-warm "jazz" performances by less-than-committed musicians that made funk into a commodity. (Now we aren't talking about Miles Davis here, he would be a fourth choice for funk innovators.) When you hear the music the way it was played in its prime moment, though, the excitement and vibrancy comes back again, provided you open yourself up to it.

Like with what we talk about today. Some 36 years after it was first captured on tape, TOP Records has released a two-CD set of Tower of Power live in a club in Boston, 1973. East Bay Archive, Volume One, brings the band onto your speakers as they sounded that evening. It is a quite decent recording, with a little bit of the room ambiance at play. They were on top of it. They play through their repertoire with just enough of the added adrenaline a live situation can bring out to make it a real pleasure to hear. There's a loose-tight contrast at play. The drummer propels the band a little harder than he might do in the studio, and the band responds with some spirited funk as only they could conjure.

It's a set the confirmed Tower of Power addict cannot pass up. And it's just plain old fun too.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nik Baertsch's Ritual Groove Music: When is the Same Different?

The music perhaps unfortunately dubbed "minimalism" is an Amero-Euro development that draws heavily on world music traditions. Repetition is the key. And like all musics of this sort, the music distinguishes itself on what remains the same and, critically, what changes, how it changes and when it changes.

Like for example in some traditional West African ensembles, the group of drummer-percussionists set up a repeating groove and the master drummer improvises variations on top of that. Pre-minimalist composer Erik Satie wrote some pioneering works, and sometimes absolutely NOTHING was suppose to change, like with the solo piano piece "Vexations," which consisted of a page of piano music to be repeated two-hundred-some-odd times, exactly the same each time. And that fits in with world music trance traditions. With constant sameness, you enter an altered state. You get high. Like if you say "pumpernickel" fast 30 times in a row, the word starts to change in your head sometime through around the 5th time to the end. It puts your head somewhere else. And it just drives some people nuts.

Minimalist pioneer La Monte Young often has set up a drone and had the drums and soprano sax, for example, create endless variations around a narrow set of scalular figures, rhythms and tones. Early Steve Reich compositions emphasized repeated parts gradually going out of phase and then recombining in a new set of repetitions. Philip Glass, early on, tried the additive and subtractive approach. Repeating phrases were lengthened or shortened over time, new notes were added or the same notes were repeated in a different sequence. Then again, all minimalism sometimes just changes abruptly to a new set of related repetitions.

All this brings me to the music of Nik Baertsch, which he aptly calls "Ritual Groove Music." First, a piece of news, then I'll talk about his first recording. The entire catalog of Nik Baertsch's Roninrhythm Records, including various Baertsch ensembles, solo work and the work of some of his associates, is now available as digital downloads through Iapetus Distribution/Unsung Records. And of course the CD versions are also still available.

Now on to the first release, by Nik Baertsch's ensemble Mobile, created in 2001 and titled Ritual Groove Music I. Like with African music, the groove is all important. It runs in various guises throughout the entire recording. Drums, winds, Baertsch's piano (which occasionally is manipulated in the manner of John Cage's prepared piano, that is to say altered by string dampening and placing objects on the strings), all get busy creating interlocking grooves of repetition, then they may add quasi-solo parts over that or contrasting figures. The music can build, or it just simply can change from one groove to another. Like the Australian group The Necks, the afro-groove aspects of rock and jazz have something to do with the music, clearly. Baertsch, at least on this first volume, rocks out and gets funky at many points. So many listeners will not find it alien, rather somehow familiar.

After saying all this, I should emphasize that though Baertsch's music is squarely anchored in minimalist sameness, yet you would not mistake his music for that of someone else. It's different. There is a hugely rhythmic component. The ritual part of the music is the trance-like effect of the repetitions; the groove part of it is what may make you want to get up and shake your whatever. This first volume does those things very well. I found myself entranced. You probably would too. Download it or get the CD if you are so inclined. Take a look at the Ronin site:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What's Good is Sometimes Boring Too

Now I love Latin jazz when it's done right. I was fortunate in my listening regarding this on two counts: 1.) My father somehow ended up with a Xavier Cugat album when I was a kid and I listened to it almost religiously. 2.) My older brother lived in Puerto Rico for a long while and he turned me on to salsa during its glory years. Those Fania Records were important to me, though nobody else in my neighborhood shared my enthusiasm.

From there I went on to Machito and Diz in his Latin mode, and so forth.

So a Dave Valentin CD has crossed my desk. It's a High Note record from 2006, Come Fly with Me. Valentin plays a beautiful flute. This recording is packed with it. The Latin jazz numbers are mostly on a high plane. But there are moments of slickness too. . . commercially oriented numbers that give a bad name to the whole endeavor and are apt to show up on some jazz radio outlets as exemplars of the art. The title cut is an example. It's good; it's well executed; but it does not have enough texture, no rough edges. That bores me.

But hey, there are times on this disk when everyone burns, like on "Enciendido." I wish there were more of them. But kudos for Valentin and his flute anyway!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New CD with David Bond, Dewey Redman, Marshall Allen

Vineyard Records is about to release The Key of Life, a new CD that features a couple of live sessions with saxophonists David Bond, Dewey Redman, Marshall Allen, Andrew White and drummer Eddie Blackwell, as well as some significant others. It delves by association into the legacy of two great traditions in Modern Jazz: the Ornette Coleman school and that of Sun Ra. It's a scorching 80 minutes of fine music.

I wrote the liner notes to this one, so that's all I'll say. . .

Check the David Bond website at to find out about the release date and/or to order it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Avram Fefer, A Player You Should Hear

Not everybody has heard, or even heard of Avram Fefer. That is unfortunate. He plays tenor, alto, soprano sax and bass clarinet. He is especially known for his tenor work. He has had some remarkable associations in recent years, notably with piano veteran Bobby Few and as a member of Michael Bisio's group.

There's a new one of Avram in a trio context (with Eric Revis on bass, Chad Taylor, drums), namely Ritual (Clean Feed). It's an excellent example of why he's one of the forces of good out there on the reeds. We have Fefer where he perhaps likes most to be, playing his own pieces freely in a small group context. His colleagues give him great support and contribute appreciably to the group sound and dynamic. Mr. Bisio, though, is the man of the hour. He plays vividly conceived improvisations all through the set, constructing lines that alternately blaze, charm, cajole, and create compelling worlds of structured sound.

This is great new jazz. What else is there to say?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Notorious B.I.G. and Arnold Schoenberg?

What makes some rap good, some not so good? Well I don't pretend to have the last answer about that. But a couple of things occurred to me as I listened to the soundtrack to the flick about Notorious B.I.G., Notorious (Bad Boy/Fox Searchlight). I haven't seen the movie yet, but the soundtrack CD has nice moments, with some prime B.I.G., some obscurities, like his first demos, and some notable guest appearances.

But as I listened to the CD, I started thinking about Arnold Schoenberg's modern concert classic Pierrot Lunaire, written in 1914, scandalizing those who had a different vision of what was acceptable. Schoenberg's piece featured a vocal style that became known as sprechstimme, literally "speech song." The singer was guided by pitch as well as speech inflections, it was singing-speaking. The lyrics were shocking for the time, announcing the death of romanticism.

Notorious B.I.G., and rap in general, has something similar going on in its own way. Rapping of course is a speech-like creative act. Really, though, B.I.G. hits varied and well-paced speech-pitch parameters in his raps. And although the result is very different from Pierrot Lunaire, the roots are different, nevertheless a set of areas to look at and evaluate his performances holds good like it does with the Schoenberg piece.

First of all, the speech-pitches. Do they vary in interesting ways? Or are we talking monotone? B.I.G. comes through. His speech-song performances are not some sort of casual thing. He uses the tone of his voice to emphasize the meaning and the meter of the rap. He is superior to many of those folks who have big successes today and maybe aren't as good.

Second, the rhythm. Does his rap "hit it" rhythm-wise, or are we talking about the same patterns over and over? No, he's great at kicking it, too.

Third, the words. Is he saying something about life, his life, the hood? And does he do that with some kind of poetic lucidity? Well I guess the fact that he got the ear of so many people before his tragic death would indicate that he was telling the world about what was going on, right? And, yes, was/is it shocking to some people? I think so. And he rapped with a flair. It has rhyme and a hip choice of words, in the right places.

And that's funny, but those parameters apply to Pierrot Lunaire just as much. There couldn't be two more different musical worlds on the surface. But it's all music. Rap and sprechstimme are human-music things, part of the significant doings of the human animal and that's why it matters. I guess that's why I listen to either and get equal pleasure and reward. Anyway the Notorious soundtrack gives you plenty of great Biggie. Spin it and dig it if you are inclined.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ken Vandermark Goes Electric in Oslo and Chicago

There is one thing you can say about Chicago's own tenorman Ken Vandermark. He's always searching for new stylistic amalgams, unusual groupings and an expansion of his sound. There are many other things to say too, of course. But we can start with that. Take the two-CD set Powerhouse Sound Oslo/Chicago (((Breaks))) (Atavistic). Each disk has a different lineup; the first disk comes out of Oslo, the second, Chicago.

Vandermark has gained a significant following for his freewheeling alignments with out music players, especially the group he forged with trombonist Jeb Bishop. The CD at hand is a little different than what those lineups have achieved in overall feel. Here we have two electric dates that more or less take the Miles Davis sound of the early-to-mid-'70s bands. Start with a bass (and sometimes guitar) riff and funk-rock drumming that builds on endless variations, extensions of, and transgressions from, the backbeat (think DeJohnette especially). Add collage atmospherics (often psychedelic) on top of that along with lots of group interaction, and finally, solos that express a never-ending counterline to the basic riff structure.

That fundamental idea forms the cornerstone of the Powerhouse approach. They create their own musical structures over that foundation, and that of course is where the interest lies.

Everybody contributes in these ensemble efforts. Vandermark's tenor helps catalyze the music as the primary soloist. I can't help thinking as I listen repeatedly to these tracks that the further refinements and advancements they'd get from playing together regularly from this point onward would make for even more impressive results. Perhaps that already has happened or is happening.

What you get at this juncture is two exciting musical sessions that extend the "free rock" idiom while providing a platform for the soloists, particularly Vandermark himself, to find new expressive channels for their art. That's so and it makes for a very good listen.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Matt Criscuolo and the Bigger-than-Life Alto Sound

There are so many releases out there in the Jazz zone lately that a.) one can be overwhelmed trying to sort through them, and b.) one can easily miss something worthwhile in the scramble. Thankfully we haven't missed the one up today. Melancholia (M Records) by Matt Criscuolo is indeed worthwhile. It is so for several reasons: 1.) He creates an album of standards/jazz standards without descending to generic radioplay-centered pap; 2.) He adds strings (a string quartet in this instance) without sounding like an old Wrigley Spearmint Gum commercial from 1959; 3.) He plays melodically without sacrificing improvisational integrity.

Criscuolo plays such a full-toned alto sax that for a few seconds on first listen I thought I was hearing a tenor. He gets the lower overtones to ring out along with the principal note in any given passage and presents to you a large, complex wave of sound to savor. He is joined by a quartet that is notable for the ageless Larry Willis on an exemplary piano spree. Willis sounds great, using modern voicings and a percussive attack to give this whole date a currency that Criscuolo wraps his sound in. Mr. Willis also handles the arrangements, and does well with that too. The strings never sound like a second thought, never as a syrupy mush that used to sell jazz albums to an ear-shy general public. Rather the strings bring in texture and fullness.

John Coltrane's Ballads album is a perfect example of a set that can be quite mellow, lush, lyrical and yet sacrifice nothing of the musical excellence of those involved. Melancholia does that too in its own way, though I am not implying that Criscuolo is the next Trane, at least not yet! The point is that the musical cushion comprising these tracks is not only very comfortable, it is very well-made.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Big Phat Hammond of Dave Siebels and the Big Phat Band

A number of years ago, organ jazz was at its nadir. It just wasn't at the top of listening lists. All that changed in the '90s, and it still has great cache on the current scene. And why not? Like the blues, classical Indian music and Vivaldi, to the uninitiated it may all sound the same. Those who delve deeply into the music know that's not so. Jimmy Smith, the grandaddy of the modern sound, had one way of going about it, Don Patterson something a little different, and then Charles Earland and Larry Young, they stretched the borders of what the style was supposed to encompass. And all that goes for the other cats who have worked behind the Hammond keyboard(s). Like the blues, it has a bag that at any point in time is normative, and players transgress or conform according to their musical vision.

That brings us to the CD of the day, Dave Siebels with Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band (PBGL). Mr. Siebels plays inside the tradition with soul and skill. The Big Phat Band gives you very tight, grooving big band accompaniment. The pieces and their arrangements by Siebels and Goodwin are also responsible for giving this disk distinction. You have excursions in flat-out funk, like the blazing hot rendition of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish." And you have a few nice numbers by Hefti and Schifrin, both masters of the big band sound. Then there are Siebels originals, good vehicles to kick up some dust. They do that.

In the process, there's new life emerging from a form that could get stale in other hands. Siebels and Goodwin put together a program that will please anyone into the Hammond and/or a straight-ahead funkifying big band. To me it's like a refreshing sorbet that clears the palate between courses. Your ears will be refreshed like that.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Steve Swell Blazes Forth Again, 2003

I have covered a number of trombonist Steve Swell's albums so far in this blog. Here we have another. Why so much of Mr. Swell? Because I happen to be listening to some of his releases, catching up on what I have missed. And because he is an amazing player, important to the contemporary scene. Today's disk is Swell in a group called the New York BrassWoodTrio. It includes the very together playing of Tom Abbs on bass and tuba, and a very simpatico Geoff Mann on drums, cornet and glockenspiel. Still in Movement (CIMP, recorded 2003) contains nine original pieces that live up to the title of the disk. The group moves deftly through a series of routines that show their improv prowess in a very good light. Amazing are the moments where the band turns into a brass trio via the doubling of Abbs and Mann.

Most amazing though is the improvising of Steve Swell himself. Listen to him on this set if you have any doubt of what he can do. He's very earthy, brash, a player who can overwhelm you with his sheer power and virtuosity. He does that throughout. The patented CIMP recording technique of minimal miking, letting the natural dynamics of the band and the room dominate, lets the music shine through from beginning to end.

Am I shilling for Steve Swell and CIMP? Hardly. Nobody pays me to say these things. I am rather fiercely independent and happen to be an enthusiast of the player and the label concerned because both offer an exceptional experience of the music today. So if you read further coverage of either here on these pages in the future (and you will), you'll understand why. And that goes for everything I review. I follow the muse, not necessarily industry trends.

Check out more on Still in Movement at

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Osowski Collective Orchestrates Your Dreams

If you look around enough, you'll find there is no shortage of musicians looking to create music with a sense of daring, a spontaneity and a refusal to merely ape what has gone before. The Michal Osowski Collective is a good example. They are based in Europe and recorded a live CD in Rotterdam a couple of years ago. It is out now, titled Live at the White Elephant, and it's part of Ayler Records' download-only series. (For $10 you get a high-quality MP3 download of the session and all the album art to print out.)

The Osowski group's makeup is not typical. Osowski mans a battery of electronics, there is a bass player and a drummmer, and two artists that vocalize or play theremin, flute, and small instruments. This is an evocative soundscape of live improvisation. It does not follow a free jazz route exactly, nor is it especially beholden to concert "new music." It just flows along with lankingly executed sound events, like a kind of soundtrack to your dreams.

There are seemingly good-humored episodes and some with a bit of intensity. Nothing quite sounds beholden to previous artists or styles, not at least in this combination. Does that mean you will like it? It's certainly not for everybody. If you like out music, this is indeed in that bag. It's not music of an "instrumentalists show their stuff" kind, though. All players contribute to a sort of euphonic wash of sound that slowly evolves and evokes some nameless connotations along the way. You probably aren't going to exclaim while listening, "Wow, that's some slide whistle playing!"

With all the above in mind I would say that this might not be the first Ayler download to grab. It takes its time imparting musical content and you might not have the patience. Or you might and then perhaps you'll be bemused and possibly enthused over the events captured that day. It is quite different in a human sort of a way. That's something.

Go to for more information.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Gato Barbieri and the New Music Frontier, 1967

Tenorman Gato Barbieri entered the new jazz world auspiciously with the Don Cherry group and showed himself to be a "new thing" player with an intensity that was matched by a fully grounded general musical sense. By the time of his first solo release in 1967, he had developed a style that touched especially upon the later work of Coltrane, but had already gone beyond to a personal sound and phrase construction.

That first album, In Search of the Mystery (ESP), has become available again as part of ESP's comprehensive reissue program. That's good news, because I believe that album has suffered undue neglect. It's time we recognize it for what it is, a passionate musical essay in the free realm, a classic, an important cornerstone in Gato's all-too-short recorded opus of serious endeavors.

We won't talk here about Gato's work from Last Tango in Paris on. People do what they do after they are tired of scuffling to earn a living. It was one of the biggest disappointments to me, though. I haven't heard that he has ever righted himself and gotten back on track as an important stylistic force. That is a genuine pity.

The ESP Disk at hand shows what we have missed all these years. It's a quartet date with very sympathetic and worthy sidemen. Calo Scott's cello adds a second voice and a more complex texture to the mix. Bassist Sirone blazes away in the background. Drummer Bobby Kapp bashes on effectively. (I wonder what happened to him? He did some nice work, both here and on Marion Brown's Three for Shepp.)

When I first listened to this record many years ago, I though Gato was a little constricted and repetitious. I listen now and I come to understand that he was using a particular series of intervals as fulcrum points for his improvisations. It's searing, incandescent blowing most all the way through. And now I realize it also has a certain discipline, an imposed structure onto the freedom.

It's nice to have this one back in print. In it's own way, it is an important statement from Gato the artist. Certainly one of his best. Go to to download or order the CD.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Frank Wess Remains at Full-Strength

It's hard to believe that Tenor sax-flautist-composer-arranger Frank Wess has been at it as long as he has, and shows no signs of fatigue or burnout, either. Even though his playing career begins way back in WWII, he is best known as a critical element in Count Basie's eminently successful second round of big band doings, from 1953-1964, as one-half of the potent two tenor team with the late Frank Foster, as arranger and writer of distinctiveness, and as a formidable flute man in an age that didn't see very much of note on that axe in jazz.

To me though, it was the small-to-mid-sized group recordings he made during that period, with and without Foster, that really defined Wess and what a swing-to-bop date could be back then. Check out some of the sides he made for Savoy if you want to be totally gassed.

At any rate here it is 2009 and he still can do it all. And speaking of his mid-sized group outings, we have a new nonet date recorded a year ago, "Once is Not Enough" (Lambeth). It is a goodie. One can only express awe and amazement that he has all the strengths available to him unabated, some 60-odd years down the line. His tenor and flute playing still have that exuberant, swinging dash that made him a favorite with the straight-ahead cognoscenti, compositions and arrangements still pop, it's all still there. The band itself is well-rehearsed and packed with crackerjack craftsmen.

Frank Wess is a one-man American landmark and we need to lavish all the praise we can on this man of such long-standing creative fire and musical excellence. Thanks for everything, Frank! May you still be at it 20 years from now.