Published: July, 2005, Rasputin Manifesto
Jazz CD reviews

By Michael Fortes

Wayne Shorter
Beyond The Sound Barrier

In case you haven't noticed, let me point it out to you right now: Wayne Shorter is on a roll. In fact, he's been completely golden for the past 4 years. Not that we ever doubted this legend's worth, but ever since he decided to take the all-acoustic route once again with his music, it seems he can do no wrong. Beyond The Sound Barrier is his third release for Verve since forming his regular quartet, which includes pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. The group has been together now for about as long as the mid 1960s Miles Davis quintet which put the name Wayne Shorter on the map, and they are no less exciting to hear. The territory this group dares to explore on the concert stage is surveyed on the new album - its eight selections span live performances from 2001 to 2004, spotlighting new compositions, and even a couple of old ones. The old ones come from the 1988 Columbia album Joy Rider, a long out of print and largely overlooked album from Wayne's post-Weather Report electronic phase. The way in which this quartet eagerly pushes, pounds, kneads and bakes these tunes like they're having the time of their lives, the pieces might as well be new.

Greg Osby
Channel Three
(Blue Note)

Every once in a while, an album comes along that really lights a fire under one's rear end, in the best possible sense of the phrase. OK, so maybe Channel Three, the latest from Greg Osby (due out August 2) isn't quite The Shape Of Jazz To Come or Out To Lunch, but the passion is there all the same, not to mention fine renditions of Ornette Coleman's "Mob Job" and Eric Dolphy's "Miss Ann" bookending the disc. Joined by Matt Brewer on bass and Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums, Osby also plays originals that magically conjure the vibe of late '80s-era Ornette with Prime Time (specifically on "Viewer Discretion") without wandering deep into the harmolodic wilderness. Titles like "Vertical Hold" and "Test Pattern" carry a television theme, and the music's most sublime moment arrives when the trio vocalizes together on the title track in a low hum that evokes the feeling of watching some half good movie with all the lights out at 2 am. Best part is, there's no eyestrain involved.

Miguel Zenón
(Marsalis Music/Rounder)

So while Osby's lightin' fires, Miguel Zenón is cookin'. This Puerto Rican sax master brewed his latest disc, Jíbaro, his first for Branford Marsalis' Marsalis Music imprint, with a most impressive array of achievements behind him. Among the finer points of his résumé are having studied at Boston's prestigious Berklee School of Music and having played in such ensembles as the Either/Orchestra and, most recently, the Bay Area's own SF Jazz Collective. All ten of these original compositions attempt to serve the rural Puerto Rican music known as jíbaro to a wider audience. However, without the guitar, cuatro and bongo, this sax-piano-bass-drums quartet sounds like it's just playing driving, occasionally Latin-tinged straight-ahead jazz. There's as much John Coltrane in the spirit of these performances as there is the hills of Puerto Rico. Not that that's a bad thing - the disc is, quite simply put, a great listen. Drummer Antonio Sánchez, in particular, really kicks some of these tunes with steel caps.

Eddie Palmieri
Listen Here!
(Concord Picante)

In Latin Jazz, the king of the piano is Eddie Palmieri. On his exquisitely recorded Listen Here!, he is joined by guest soloists like Michael Brecker, John Scofield, Regina Carter, and others for a lively blowing session with lots of singing brass charts and tasty congas. "In Flight" sounds almost like a long lost Jobim tune, but "In Walked Bud" is definitely Monk, Latin style. Dancing is required (except for the stiffs with the pens and notepads, of course).

Down To The Bone
Spread Love Like Wildfire
(Narada Jazz)

These British dudes play some impressive jazz-funk grooves, and seem intent on adding a little hipness to the smooth jazz crowd. Heck, it might even be worth some aspiring DJ's time to remix these guys into something hot for the underground. Ultimately, though, Spread Love Like Wildfire is missing one all-important ingredient to make this record appeal to funksters - a big, booming, reach-up-from-the floor-and-grab-you-by-the-ass drum sound. The mostly wimpy beats are what keep the album from being the second coming of the Headhunters. Instead, it comes off like remembering the Headhunters, playing the record in your head without being able to feel the floor shake beneath your feet. Some damn fine solos scattered throughout the disc, though - these guys do know how to play, no doubt about that.