Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Manhattan Blaze - 1979 - Venus Eyes

Manhattan Blaze 
Venus Eyes

01. Venus Eyes 5:44
02. Moon 6:36
03. Demon Upstairs 6:52
04. We'Fe 7:01
05. The Answer Is Love 6:42
06. Louisiana Strut 8:10

Alto Saxophone, Flute – Frank Strozier
Bass – Alex Blake
Cello – Akua Dixon, Clarissa Howell
Drums – Idris Muhammad
French Horn – Vincent Chancey
Guitar – Yoshiaki Masuo
Percussion – Ray Mantella
Piano, Electric Piano [Elepian] – Hilton Ruiz
Reeds – John Stubblefield
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Ron Bridgewater
Trombone – Earl McIntyre, Emmet McDonald
Trumpet – Charles Sullivan, Earl Gardner, Eddie Henderson, Frank Gordon
Vibraphone, Directed By – Joe Chambers
Viola – Charles Dalton, Maxine Roach
Violin – Melvyn Roundtree, Sandra Billingslea, Stanley Hunte, Valerie Collymore, Winston Collymore, Wint Garvey

Recorded and mixed at Sound Ideas Studios, New York City, October, 1978.

A rare fusion set from 70s Japan – but one that's cut by an American group of ultra-hip musicians! The set's a unique outing for an ensemble that features John Stubblefield on saxes, Hilton Ruiz on piano and keyboards, Eddie Henderson on trumpet, and Idris Muhammad on drums – a lineup that makes music here that's every bit as great as you'd expect – especially if you already dig their 70s recordings from the US! Bits of Latin sneak in and really create a complex set of rhythms underneath tighter fusion charts – and the set also features some added horns and strings, which give some of the grooves a nicely sophisticated vibe. 

Kazumi Watanabe with Manhattan Blaze - 1978 - Village in Bubbles

Kazumi Watanabe with Manhattan Blaze
Village in Bubbles

01. Park Avenue 5:27
02. Dance Of Corona 7:52
03. Village In Bubbles 8:40
04. Magic Carpet 9:58
05. Mustache Daddy 5:40
06. Crystal Rain 6:07

Kazumi Watanabe : electric/acoustic guitar
Yoshiaki Masuo : electric guitar
Mickey Tucker : acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes
Alex Blake : electric/acoustic bass
Idris Muhammad : drums
Ray Mantilla : percussion
No-Bu : percussion
Joe Chambers : drums
Greg Woods : synthesizer programming
trumpet : Jon Faddis, Earl Gardner
Frank Gordon, Virgil Jones
french horn : Greg Williams
trombone : Earl McKintyre, Janice Robinson
tenor saxophone : Ron Bridgewater
alto saxophone, flute : Frank Strozier
violin : Sandra Billingslea, John Blake
Winston Collymore, Gayle Dixon
Carl Ector, Melvin Roundtree
George Taylor
viola : Charles Dahon, Sharon Ray
Maxine Roach
cello : Akua Dixon, Clarissa Howell
Ulysses Kirksey

Japan in the 1970s, the era when the word fusion was born. Just in Japan, which was being swept by Littner and Larry Carlton, did such a guitarist exist in Japan? This is one of the best masterpieces of the Japan Fusion Society, which can be said to be the gospel of the guitar kid at that time. When I hear Lonesome Cat and Olive Steps, I guess I'm the only one who seems to be able to get back what I left in the 70's.

Monty Waters - 1975 - The Black Cat

Monty Waters
The Black Cat 

01. J. Love March 7:07
02. Bog's Blues 10:09
03. Apt. 2H 9:06
04. Modesto 11:08
05. The Black Cat 11:31
06. R.P.M. 13:52

Recorded August 12, 1975 at Vanguard Studios, N.Y.C.

Monty Waters — Sax (Alto)
Yoshiaki Masuo — Guitar
Ronnie Boykins — Bass
George Avaloz — Drums

I first heard alto saxist Monty Waters on the Joe lee Wilson and Bond Street album, What Would It be Without You. I love Joe Lee Wilson (and have blogged about his music) and liked what I heard of Waters, but I could never find much music by him. It turns out that he spent  a good many years of his later career in Munich, where he did record, but he never got much of a shot in the U.S. Like many practitioners of America’s greatest gift to world culture, he’s been neglected in his own country. Fortunately, he was recorded in 1975 by the Japanese WhyNot label, now re-released on CD by Candid Records.

Monnville Charles (Monty) Waters was born in Modesto, California on April 14th 1938 and passed away in Munich on December 22nd 2008. Another of Jazz's unsung heroes, his death went virtually unnoticed by the international jazz community, as indeed had most of his career. The saxophonist didn't even rate a mention in the All Music Guide To Jazz and most of the standard reference books. This is indeed regrettable as Monty was clearly an artist of consummate talent in both his playing and writing ability. Monty studied music at Modesto High and cut his teeth in the vibrant R&B scene in the late 50's touring with the bands of B.B King, Little Richard, James Brown and others before switching coasts to play in New York with the likes of Woody Shaw, Jaki Byard, Elvin Jones and Art Blakey where he gradually became involved in the emerging 'Loft Scene.' Monty and his associates on Black Cat all display considerable skill and panache and achieve a remarkable empathy on all of Monty's six original tunes. Throughout the set guitarist Yoshiaki Masuo, bassist Ronnie Boykins and drummer George Avaloz achieve a rare intimacy as they weave in and out of the proceedings to startling effect. Waters' very personal alto is airy, floating and fluid. His playing has a plaintive bluesy quality which just grows on you. His swinging, narrative style has been described as "being likely to outlast all that intellectual blasting of notes - 'emotionalism' without emotion...."

The Black Cat is an excellent date, featuring Waters, guitarist Yoshihaki Masuo, bassist Ronnie Boykins, and drummer George Avaloz. Waters also composed all of the tunes. They’re really equal partners here, notably on J. Love March, a slightly eccentric jazz march with a good deal of collective improvisation. Waters has a lot of Ornette Coleman in his playing, particularly notable on the two blues tracks—Bog’s Blues and Modesto—but tempered with a more disciplined Steve Lacy-like tone.  It’s a strong combination. Apt. #2H, a reworking of Giant Steps, the title track, and R.P.M. all serve as vehicles for Waters, an impressively melodic Masuo, and standout solo work by Boykins.

Richard Beirach, Terumasa Hino, Yoshiaki Masuo - 1976 - Zal

Richard Beirach, Terumasa Hino, Yoshiaki Masuo

01. Mavrodaphne 6:13
02. Broken Wing 4:38
03. Yesterdays 6:31
04. Zal 7:02
05. Black Is The Color Of My True Love's Hair 4:15
06. What Is This Thing Called Love 8:58

Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Terumasa Hino
Guitar – Yoshiaki Masuo
Piano – Richard Beirach

I had heard of this album but never gave it much thought until I stumbled across it on the net. Amazon prime had a new copy and was letting it go for $4! Naturally I snapped it up. And it's not just a good example of early Richie-it's great. There's a wonderful consistent mood on this album. It flows from the guitar duos into the flugelhorn duos perfectly. You get to hear some of Beirach's great originals, Broken wing and the lesser known Zal and the dreamy Mavrodaphne. Beirach's penchant for exploring certain standards like Yesterdays and What is this Thing are nicely represented here. I love his interpretation of Black is the Color. He may have been the first to take it in this direction.

Also, I have to say the sound of this 1976 release is nothing short of amazing. It was released in 2006. The remastering makes it sound like an ECM recording. I'm not exaggerating. Supposedly recorded in Richie's home studio, it was actually recorded by David Baker and judging from the audio, in a pro studio. It sounds way too good for a home recording.

If you can find this at a decent price, I urge any fans of Richie Beirach to pick up a copy of this rare album.