John Litweiler

John’s Contributions


December 2001    Overdue Ovation

Fred Anderson

Remember the old circus act in which a Volkswagen Beetle came to a stop in the ring and dozens of folks—tall, short, fat, thin—climbed out of the tiny car? There are nights when the Velvet Lounge, in Chicago, is like that. The club looks small, squeezed...


December 2001    Books

Dead Man Blues: Jelly Roll Morton Way Out West
Phil Pastras

A great artist, pianist, pool shark, pimp, composer, con man, Catholic, voodoo believer, vain, insecure, brave, a transparent liar whom nobody believed when he told obvious truths, a compulsive braggart whose logorrhea drove away most of the people who might...


December 2001    Albums

Avishai Cohen with the International Vamp Band

An aptly named sextet-three musicians from Israel, the others from Argentina, Mexico and Cuba, and they play lots of uneventful vamps. The preponderance of one-chord tunes, peppy Latin rhythms and Cohen's history of playing bass with Chick Corea's groups...


November 2001    Albums

Spirits Entering
Kahil El'Zabar/Billy Bang

Here's an album of violin-percussion duets, and once you adjust to the unusual instrumentation, the music proves engaging, often charming and clever. Bang is an attractive violinist with genuine melodic gifts and a sophisticated feeling for improvised form...


November 2001    Albums

Antonio Farao

In the present age of highly refined inside-the-changes jazz, when hard-core, pre-Trane boppers have all but vanished, the Italian pianist Antonio Farao is among the most refined of all. This perfect improviser is a virtuoso of technique, rhythm and harmony...


November 2001    Albums

Different Rivers
Trygve Seim

Trygve Seim is a Norwegian composer/tenor and soprano saxman, and this album, his first, is a sort of new-age jazz, mostly composed, with ultraslow tempos and almost immobile lines. That is, Seim's octet plays a phrase, and repeats the phrase, and repeats...


November 2001    Overdue Ovation

Alvin Fielder

“The predatory levitations of Alvin Fielder, hovering like a hawk, demonstrating a drumming that is as much about sounds as rhythm, a Chinese calligraphy written across the music.” So wrote critic J.B. Figi, in liners to the 1966 Delmark album that introduced...


October 2001    Albums

Four Compositions (Duets) 2000
Anthony Braxton with Alex Horwitz

Four Compositions consists of Horwitz reading from newspapers and books and occasionally commenting while Braxton plays saxes and clarinets. The CD is divided into 15 similar tracks, and it is impossible to tell from the liners which composition is heard...


October 2001    Albums

Composition N. 247
Anthony Braxton

Och, the bagpipes, "those deep and plaintive sounds which have done much to imprint upon the characters of those who hear them a melancholy and resigned despair," as Stephen Leacock wrote long ago. Composition N. 247 is McBraxton's long piece for a trio...


September 2001    Albums

Presents the Contemporary Standards Ensemble
Don Braden

Four selections in this program are latter-day pop songs that, argues saxophonist Don Braden, should become jazz standards. In fact, Steely Dan's "Kid Charlemagne" works okay in a jazz arrangement, but this band fails to make a case for themes by Donny Hathaway...


September 2001    Books

The Thelonious Monk Reader
Rob van der Bliek

After the publication of intriguing anthologies such as Mark Tucker’s The Duke Ellington Reader and Todd Selbert’s The Art Pepper Companion, this collection of writings about Thelonious Monk, dating from 1947 to 1999, is a disappointment. Part of the reason...


September 2001    Albums

The Hollywood All-Star Sessions
Art Pepper

At last, they're here! Seldom heard in America, these are the seven albums that Art Pepper recorded for Japan's Atlas label between 1979 and '82. Since he was contracted exclusively as a leader to Galaxy, he had to pretend to be a sideman; Bill Watrous...


September 2001    Albums

Dharma Days
Mark Turner

Mark Turner's tenor-sax tone is personal indeed: light, especially in his high ranges, and almost wholly uninflected (he does present the occasional tiny, very slow vibrato). The twisting, leaping theme phrases of the opening "Iverson's Odyssey" announce...

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About John Litweiler