Untitled Compositions

"...compository sketches..." - S. Scott Franklin

The Robert Glasper Trio – Think of One (Audio)

Whenever I listen to Robert Glasper, I, too, feel the imprint of pianist Ahmad Jamal. From the percussive nature of their play to the succinct and expedient style in which they showcase each and every note, there is a genuine interconnectivity between the two, constructed in sound. If hip-hop samples Jamal in the present, surely they will be doing so with Glasper in the future. Some, in fact, have already tried—rather remarkably, I might add.

In introducing Glasper to individuals of my own twentysomething enclave, I almost instinctively turn to his memorable hip-hop reconstruction piece, the eponymous “J Dillalude.” Stringing together a melody of some of the producer’s finest compositions, I consider this to be yet another significant bridge between hip-hop and jazz.

Today, however, I’ve found another from the Glasper repertoire to be in heavy rotation. It speaks to a lineage that connects Ahmad Jamal to Thelonious Monk and De La Soul shortly thereafter. The convergence of these three is “Think of One.”

In theory, this is Glasper’s take on the Monk composition of the same name. Monk originally recorded the tune in 1953 with the assistance of Julius Watkins, Sonny Rollins, Percy Heath, and Willie Jones. Despite such a remarkable lineup, “Think of One” remains a widely overlooked record; an unfortunate reality as it marks one of the earliest instances of Monk playing the role of band leader. Regardless, the record is another exhibition of Monk’s genius…”

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For The Roy Ayers Project

The John Coltrane Quartet - Ballads (Album Review)

"On a day in which we formally welcome autumn, we too celebrate the birth of John Coltrane. The symbolism of it all can be heard rather than seen. That is why, today, I listen to Ballads.

Autumn has a distinctive feel. While urban meteorologists Tony! Toni! Toné! once reported that it never rains in Southern California, those of us located in more temperate climates recognize that this is the season that hosts a combination of grey skies and heavy precipitation. Only exacerbating this dismissal forecast is the inevitable darkness that will steadily begin to swallow the waning moments of summer. For this reason, our collective mood will begin to shift accordance with the season. Many would argue that melancholy is best prescribed to adequately define our not-so-sunny dispositions during this time of year. And as such, autumn’s score is composed with a somber tone and delicate rhythm.

As I look outside of my window on a day such as this, I hear Coltrane’s Ballads. It’s difficult for many to properly place it. Amongst the myriad other projects included in the Coltrane catalog, this album does not that dominate feature. It does not present the framework for a new compositional paradigm like Giant Steps, nor does it engage in the experimental recklessness of Om. This understanding, however, should not be taken as a shot at the album, but to instead, present it for what it is. Ballads a significance that deserves more praise than it has received. It’s thematic masterpiece, capturing variations on a sentimental mood. It does so in a manner that is never trite and surprisingly underplayed. It maintains a certain course, one from which it never strays. This is heard immediately on the opening record, “Say It (Over And Over Again).” Beginning with a subtle polyphonic texture, a substantially pronounced Coltrane emits a sound that borders on lethargic. Everything seems to be stressed and drawn out for just a moment longer. Its emotional pull does not lean towards sadness, but instead a mellowed composure. This is the type of music that lends itself well to a rainy afternoon in September…”

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For The Roy Ayers Project

Weldon Irvine – Morning Sunrise (Audio) (1979)

"As it becomes with the passing of Labor Day, my morning commute was met with the frustrating meander of school buses coupled with the premature chill of autumn sunrises. A more modern indication of the changing seasons finds my social networking existence inundated with references to the eponymous record “Dear Summer” by artist Jay-Z.

“Dear summer, I know you gon’ miss
For we been together like Nike Airs and crisp tees…”

Conjuring up feelings befitting the passage of time, this has been a stalwart piece of musical imagery when bidding adieu to the summer madness. On this morning, however, I’ve felt the need to dig into the metaphorical crates of my iTunes library and pull out the reference track to this Just Blaze-produced classic…”

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For The Roy Ayers Project

Michael Jackson - King of Jazz

There is an alternate universe in which Michael Jackson is the King of Jazz. This is something of which I am quite sure. In this world, Marvin Gaye went on to produce several groundbreaking jazz albums after his critically acclaimed 1965 release A Tribute to the Great Nat King Cole. In this world, Jill Scott is widely known as our generation’s Etta James heralded for her interpretation of “All I Could Do Was Cry.” And in this world, Robert Glasper has already won his 3rd Grammy for Album of the Year. And, as I said before, in this world, Michael is king.

While I jest, the greater joke is that this commentary is rooted in a substantial reality; because Michael Jackson could have been the King of Jazz. It’s a funny afterthought to a career that was largely defined by sequin-covered military jackets and mind-blowing theatrics. His legacy would seem to be that of a man completely contradicting any moniker relating to jazz, but this, like so many other things, is only perception. Finding the reality of it all requires one to step beyond the manufactured smoke and blinding glare of stage lights. The truth is much more interesting.

What many forget is that Michael and the world of jazz did meet, if for only one night. They were introduced by Stevie Wonder and their brief encounter was recorded in song…”

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For The Roy Ayers Project

Warren Wolf - Warren Wolf (Album Review)

Warren Wolf is considered to be highly proficient in several of music’s instruments. His degree from Berklee would, without a doubt, substantiate this claim. What I find most fascinating about Wolf, however, will most likely never reach the pages of his ever-growing résumé, at least not explicitly. This is something a bit more abstract. What most draws me to Wolf’s already infectious sound is that he is playing bebop in a modern setting. Naturally, this has peaked my curiosity. But, what sold me on his dynamic repertoire boils down to how he does it.

With minor exceptions, much of Wolf’s most recent album would fall into the category of bebop. Overall, it sustains much of the rhythmic velocity and technical acuity found in one of jazz most popular subgenres. But, it’s not the 1940s. This makes some believe that bebop is an antiquated transport for jazz, giving way to the onslaught of unforgivably tacky smooth jazz albums and hit-or-miss displays of hip-hop and jazz fusion. And I’m not saying that Wolf is outdated. In reality, his music is more refreshing than ever, an interest thought considering what he’s attempting to do. So, I have to tip my hat to Wolf on this one. At times, his approach is more Roy Ayers than Lionel Hampton, but I think that is why it works so well.

Wolf’s most significant work takes place along the aluminum bars of his vibraphone. Stylistically, he parlays his talents into a flexibility that fits each song. At times, he plays with a terseness used to enhance and not overwhelm the melody, as seen on “427 Mass Ave” and “Sweet Bread.” When given the opportunity to cut loose, however, Wolf does so tenfold. On “Eva,” we can hear the artist taking his solo journey with ease as he cuts through the bebop sensibilities of the record with flawless execution. Through it all, there is a certain vivacity with which Wolf plays. This point being what led to my reference of Ayers. There is an obvious understanding, amongst both artist and audience, that this is essentially jazz music but, there is a disconnect, in that the artist is decisively building a distinctive musical identity outside of the traditional realm. Wolf disregards the stoicism of older idioms to recreate something post-bebop, and yet, rooted in that very same tradition….”

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For The Revivalist