Be sure to read Part 1, which focuses on Joni Mitchell’s song “Furry Sings the Blues” and her distinctive use of alternate tunings.
noted in Part 1, Metheny’s presence in Mitchell’s touring band is one among his
rare appearances as a sideman to an artist from outside the jazz world. Well
before his 1979 gig as Mitchell’s lead guitarist, Pat Metheny had in place a
sound and style very much his own. Throughout much of the show, he presses his
well-known tone—via a Gibson Es-175 into a pair of clean Acoustic combos,
gently enhanced with asymmetrical delay settings—into the service of songs
distant from his own.
Be sure to check back on July 7 for part 2, which will focus on Pat Metheny’s contribution to “Furry Sings the Blues.”
Mitchell’s “Shadows and Light” is a brilliant performance document that brings
together stage translations of the singer/songwriter/guitarist’s mid-70s
period. During this interval, Mitchell released one after another adventurous
album: Court and Spark (1974), The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975), Hejira (1976), Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977), and Mingus (1979). In contrast to the folk and softer rock leanings of
her earlier recordings, the brief on this sequence of albums was strongly
informed by jazz, and Mitchell brought aboard some of the most cutting-edge
jazz musicians of the era, perhaps most notably electric bass innovator and
virtuoso Jaco Pastorius.
Although Mitchell herself is the essential guitar presence
on her albums, she invited occasional additions from jazz-rock lead player
Larry Carlton and Robben Ford. By the time of the late 1979 gigs that led to Shadows and Light, her live band
included one of the most innovative young jazz guitarists of the time: Pat
Metheny. Four years out from his 1976 debut and close to the cusp of releasing American Garage, Metheny was in what
have proven to be rare circumstances in his lengthy and still-evolving career.
With the arrival of People Moverimminenthere (On Apple Music, it dropped at midnight on Monday, July 1), I’ve been listening to a lot of Scott Henderson’s older music and getting excited about hearing new stuff from him. Below are five tunes, in chronological order, from Henderson’s previous releases. They represent his early days as a sideman; his work as a key member of the fusion outfit Tribal Tech; an interesting one-off collaboration with bassist Jeff Berlin and drummer Dennis Chambers; and his solo albums, but there is no attempt at ranking and no judgment of what is absolutely essential in his catalog—except in a couple of cases.
“Three Nighter,” from Jeff Berlin’s Champion (1985)
Champion was my introduction to Scott Henderson’s playing. I knew Jeff Berlin from Allan Holdsworth’s Road Games, and I was stoked to see that the bassist had Neal Schon and Neal Peart on his debut solo album, but it was the guitar contributions of then-unknown-to-me Scott Henderson that really turned my head around. On “Three Nighter,” Henderson’s rhythmic acuity shines as he riffs in unison with Berlin, carries melodic sections on his own, and digs in on solos that capture both bebop’s melodic contours and its spaces and pauses right next to rock guitar moves.
Click “continue reading” for 4 more choice Scott Henderson tracks!
On June 19, Glass Onyon PR issued a press release giving details of People Mover, Scott Henderson’s soon-to-be-released follow up the absolutely outstanding Vibe Station. It’s been a while since there’s been any new music from Henderson: Vibe Station came out in 2015, and it’s the last issued recording he mentions on his website. But, based on Scott’s own words, there is reason to think it will be well worth the wait. Dig this:
“I’d say this album is a bit more harmonic than ‘Vibe
Station,’ and the rhythm section plays a bigger role in the music. The
challenge was to come up with new tones and effects I haven’t used before,
since like ‘Vibe Station,’ the songs are layered with multi guitar tracks.”
Don’t let the wAcka-jaWaKa lettering on the cover throw you off! Warsaw Summer Jazz Days ’98 (Manifesto, 2019) is a well-recorded documenting of Allan Holdsworth digging deep into his muse in a trio that also showcased the chordally sympathetic six-string bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Gary Novak. Needless to say, another reminder of the vital and singular sound of Allan Holdsworth will always be more than welcome!
quartet of tunes that later appeared on Holdsworth’s 2000 release, The Sixteen Men of Tain, this gig also includes several pieces from
the late master’s fertile early 80s period, plus “Proto-Cosmos,” from his tenure
with drummer Tony Williams.
In under one year, New York-based jazz guitarist Gilad Hekselman has released two strong collections as the primary artist: Ask for Chaos (September 2018) and Further Chaos (May 2019). Each features tracks by two ensembles that Hekselman leads. His GHex Trio consists of Helselman’s guitar, accompanied by stand-up bass and drums. In ZuperOctave, Hekselman takes charge of both of guitar and bass in a setting that also includes keyboardist Aaron Parks and drummer/percussionist Kush Abadey. With Hekselman making liberal and dramatic use of effects and his bandmates also embracing electronics, ZuperOctave finds startling and original sonic territory. It’s electronically-touched organic music that is, above all, jazz. More specifically, it’s sonically exploratory, harmonically adventurous jazz that doesn’t sound to me like what is usually called “fusion,” for the lack of rock-oriented beats. The track “Stumble,” from Ask for Chaos, is one among many ZuperOctave highlights.
“Stumble” arrested me immediately with its
memorable opening melodic figure and a lush sound so whole it’s sometimes hard
to tease apart Parks’s keyboards from Hekselman’s guitar.
On Hungry Ghost, released March 2019, Typical Sisters explores avenues for creating urgency beyond of the borders of well-defined genres. The more I listen to Hungry Ghost, the more I hear jazz in a generalized way and the less I hear anything like a bebop line. If one has to categorize this album, it probably makes most sense to call it jazz, but it’s jazz in the sense of connecting to jazz tradition and not in the sense of sounding like traditional jazz. That insufficient characterization shouldn’t suggest that Hungry Ghost is generic. Typical Sisters sophomore album is an expansive, challenging, and rewarding collection that reveals progressively deeper charms through repeated listening.
Featuring guitarists Sheryl Bailey and Anders Nilsson
Drummer/composer/world-music explorer Maciek Schejbal’s Afro-Polka project is based on the inspired, if unlikely, idea that polka, elements of African pop, and jazz guitar improvisation can be fused into a complementary whole. On the penultimate night of 2018, Schejbal, bassist Jerome Harris, and the potent guitar team of Sheryl Bailey and Anders Nilsson realized Schejbal’s thesis. Throughout three sets in front of a Sunday night, early-show, standing-room-only crowd, the Afro-Polka All-Stars explored the landscape of a new musical moon—one that offers frequent surprises, while also maintaining contact with the ears of ordinary Earthlings.
Oz Noy has said of his music, “It’s jazz, it just doesn’t sound like it.” On his recent quartet gig at the 55 Bar, it could be argued that Oz’s music sounded a step or two closer to what most ears accept as jazz. Accompanied by Omer Avital on stand-up bass, Anthony Pinciotti on drums, and David Kikoski on electric piano, Oz explored a range of jazz standards, plus a classic R & B tune, hitting a couple more jazz signifiers than usual, and extending the range of his boundary-pushing-yet-accessible style.
Harriet Tubman, featuring Brandon Ross, at the Jazz-Rock-Funk Throwdown, June 2018
Harriet Tubman’s music was nearly entirely new to me. Before the Alternative Guitar Summit, I checked out a few tracks from Araminta, Harriet Tubman’s latest album, but I had no time for a deep dive. Consisting of bassist Melvin Gibbs, drummer J.T. Lewis, and guitarist Brandon Ross, Harriet Tubman has now been a band for more than 20 years. The group’s members each have varied resumes full of prestigious gigs. Given the members’ respective artistic ranges, it would be slightly arguable to say that Harriet Tubman is the most “alternative” or out-there project for any of them, but this group’s musical vision is undisputedly way past the borders of anything that can be reasonably considered mainstream. The imposing electric bass presence of Gibbs—who is equally able to lay down a deep ostinato; jam a fuzzed-out single-note solo; and loop some noise—and the highly sympathetic drumming of Lewis created an environment in which Ross explores sound and melody free of pretty much every known conventional guitar trope.