What if there was no Alfred Lion, Francis Wolff or Max Margulis? These were the innovators and the Imagineers, not just for jazz but all music.
Lion, Wolf and Margulis were the risk-takers who saw the future, and profit was not their motivation for existence. One might call them rebellious. Indeed, at one point, when Liberty Records acquired Blue Note in the mid-'60s, the new owners were not sure of its commercial viability. There was little imagination as the masses consumed pop music.
Artists have re-imagined classics such as Duke Ellington's Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy by Tchaikovsky) and Wayne Shorter's Sibelius' Valse Triste.
This 16-themed revelation is a showcase for trailblazers of contemporary and experimental jazz. Some of these tunes will make your heart palpitate, and others will make your teeth feel funny!
Each track has its own plinth and is worthy of an in-depth critique; those mentioned in this review indicate the album's high production value.
Chick Corea's 1969 album, The Complete Is Sessions, featured a 28-second track titled It. Hubert Laws's performance was seamless, complimenting Corea's winding piano noodles. Fast forward to 2022, and Yazz Ahmed, the British-Bahraini trumpeter, has flipped the script. The intro is soft, and the piano accompanied by the complimentary vamp preserves the experimental ambience.
21-year-old Conor Albert started making music at 8. The multi-instrumentalist quickly discovers his way to fame, reminding me of a young Jacob Collier. The Mizell signature classic is taken from the Bobbie Humphrey Fancy Dancer album; You Make Me Feel So Good has been stripped back and layered with angelic harmonies.
Re: imagined isn't just the 'standards'. Modern jazz melodies are hard to ignore. I was captivated listening to Norah Jones's Don't Know Why performed by Parthenope's Doverman and Jennifer Charles. This rendition delivers the contemporary sound, augmented by the brightness of the words
Jumping to Chico Hamilton's The Morning Side of Love, London vocalist Ego Ella May has taken this time-honoured tune, enriching it with a light and ethereal feel. The harmonies provide a feathered backdrop for Ego's soothing vocals, and you can listen here.
Lots of songs get re-imagined, such as Chant, written by Duke Pearson, recorded by Donald Byrd in 1961 and released in 1979. Now that's a long wait! It would have been too easy to forget and overlook this 2022 modern take on this tune by Nubiyan Twist. This version is one for the hot steppers. The heavy percussive structure oozes funk, and the impressive horn section is full of energy!
One of the most dynamic interpretations on this album is Theon Cross's take on Thelonious Monks and Kenny Clarke's Epistrophy, although Art Taylor's version was incredible too! The original performed by the big band was bright and melodic. There have been a handful of slight variations on this since its debut in 1942. Author Anthony Brown referred to this as "the first classic, modern jazz composition" in his short 1990 article 'Modern Jazz Drumset Artistry'. Cross has taken this classic to the upside-down world with its heavy dark tuba stabs. It's one for the sci-fi scene. Take a listen here.
These artists have flexed the sound of jazz with outstanding talent and technical ability. These are the new pioneers, and the overall production is exceptional. I'm not sure it's as ground-breaking as the first album; still, "it's pure dope".
1. Yazz Ahmed "It" – From Chick Corea Is (1969)
2. Conor Albert "You Make Me Feel So Good"- From Bobbi Humphrey Fancy Dancer (1975)
3. Parthenope "Don't Know Why" - From Norah Jones Come Away With Me (2002)
4. Swindle "Miss Kane" – From Donald Byrd Street Lady (1973)
5. Nubiyan Twist "Through The Noise (Chant No.2)" – From Donald Byrd A New Perspective (1963)
6. Ego Ella May "The Morning Side Of Love" - From Chico Hamilton Pereginations (1975)
7. Oscar Jerome & Oscar #Worldpeace "(Why You So) Green With Envy" – From Grant Green Green Street (1961)
8. Daniel Casimir ft. Ria Moran "Lost" – From Wayne Shorter The Soothsayer (1965)
9. Theon Cross "Epistrophy" – From Thelonious Monk Genius Of Modern Music, Vol.1 (1948)
10. Maya Delilah "Harvest Moon" – From Cassandra Wilson New Moon Daughter (1995)
11. Kay Young "Feel Like Making Love" - From Marlena Shaw Who is this Bitch, Anyway? (1974)
12. Venna & Marco Bernardis "Where Are We Going" – From Donald Byrd Black Byrd (1972)
13. Reuben James "Infant Eyes" - From Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil (1964)
14. Binker Golding "Fort Worth" - From Joe Lovano From The Soul (1991)
15. Cherise "Sunrise" - From Norah Jones Feels Like Home (2004)
16. Franc Moody "Cristo Redentor"– From Donald Byrd A New Perspective (1963)