Jazz Albums Round-Up

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The Independent Culture
KIP HANRAHAN is a sort of Latin-jazz conceptualist, not exactly an overcrowded profession. Though he does play (usually percussion), like Herman Melville's Bartleby he prefers not to. Instead, Hanrahan acts as producer and director for his albums, deciding the theme and then casting musicians to bring it to life.

So far, the musicians have included Astor Piazzola, Jack Bruce, David Murray, Don Pullen and Little Jimmy Scott among many others, which shows he's got taste if nothing else. Hanrahan is currently engaged on a nine- part series inspired by The Arabian Nights, and the second instalment has just appeared. A Thousand Nights and a Night (Shadow Night - 2) on his own US Clave label is typically impenetrable, but typically good.

One of the album's greatest pleasures is the opportunity it gives us to hear the piano and organ playing of the late, immeasurably great Don Pullen. Pullen died two years ago but Hanrahan's projects take time to ferment and we're likely to go on hearing Pullen on them for quite a while yet. One track in particular, `The Tale of the Youth Behind Whom Indian and Chinese Music was Played and the Tale of the Jaundiced Youth' - it's easier to call it Track 9 - is so good you could happily listen to nothing else for some time to come.

Two years ago, the New York pianist Uri Caine re-composed selected works of Gustav Mahler for the brilliant album Primal Light. A live version extending the same material has just been released and it's perhaps even better. Gustav Mahler in Toblach by the Uri Caine Ensemble (Winter and Winter) is a double album recorded at an Italian festival last summer. The ensemble playing recalls the great, carnivalesque, Carla Bley bands of the Eighties, while the bravura soloing by Ralph Alessi on trumpet, Mark Feldman on violin, and David Binney on alto sax is pitched at a level of extreme, almost delirious, excitement.

A tape left lying in the British bassist Danny Thompson's attic for 32 years provides the material for Danny Thompson Trio Live 1967 (What Disc). With John McLaughlin on guitar - shortly to leave Britain to join Miles Davis - and Tony Roberts on tenor sax, flute and bass clarinet, it's far more than a mere historical curiosity, and the recording quality is excellent. Best of all is the selection of tunes, which represent a cross-section of the hipper mid-Sixties repertoire, with compositions by Bud Powell, Charlie Parker and Charles Lloyd. The governing aesthetic is sensitive, open, chamber-jazz before its time, with McLaughlin already practising what would become his signature sound on Miles' In A Silent Way two years later.