Jazz albums round-up

By Phil Johnson
Friday 07 February 2003 01:00

In jazz, the cultures of record-collecting and live performance are very different. Devotees of rare vinyl albums prefer their music to be as unavailable as possible, played by artists long out of commission, preferably dead, and certainly not appearing at the pub down the road next Sunday lunchtime. Frustratingly for the collector, a number of the musicians featured on Impressed with Gilles Peterson (Universal), a great new compilation of classic Sixties British jazz, are still with us and hustling for gigs. Let's hope they get some, too, as Impressed may well be this year's bestselling jazz album, at least until the next Courtney Pine.

Peterson, an avid jazz record-collector himself, has brought together tracks by Michael Garrick, Joe Harriott, Tubby Hayes, Don Rendell and Ian Carr, Ronnie Ross, Harry Beckett and Graham Collier, all taken from out-of-print albums that now cost hundreds of pounds for a pristine copy. Many of the tunes are built around the kind of loping modal or jazz waltz rhythms that have become fashionable again, like Michael Garrick's lovely opener, "First Born"; or appear to prefigure more famous developments across the Atlantic, like Harry Beckett's proto-fusion "Rolli's Tune" (fromFlare Up, which I saw for a bargain £50 at Tom's Records in Hay-on-Wye recently). Like much of Joe Harriott's work, his beautiful track with Amancio D'Silva, "Jaipor", still sounds ahead of the game. Perhaps most striking is the the fantastic double-bass playing throughout the album, from Dave Green, Spike Heatly, Graham Collier, Freddy Logan and Chris Laurence.

After the genuinely inspiring Impressed, one approaches the oh-so-cutely titled ScoLoHoFo (Blue Note) with irritation, especially after reading how this "supergroup" quartet of John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Dave Holland and Al Foster are all so privileged to be playing with each other, and what a favour they're doing us by finding time to meet in a studio for a couple of hours. Then you play the album and it's pretty good, when they're not noodling; not up to the standard of Joe Harriott or Harry Beckett, obviously, but worth hearing.

Anyone who's seen a recent concert performance by the South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and his trio – Belden Bullock on bass, Sipho Kunene on drums – will be interested in the new live album African Magic (Enja), if only because you can turn the volume up. That aside, this is an excellent collection featuring, among the 24 tracks, many of the master's most famous tunes. It's been a while since there's been an exciting new Abdullah Ibrahim CD, but African Magic does the trick. It should become a classic.

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