John Litweiler

John’s Contributions


May 2005    Books

Living With Jazz: A Reader by Dan Morgenstern (Pantheon)

This book is, believe it or not, the first and only selection of writings by the most influential of all active American jazz critic-scholars. A refugee from Nazi Austria, Dan Morgenstern plunged into the jazz life as soon as he arrived in American in 1947...


October 2004    Albums

All-Star Swing Session
Bud Freeman

Here's an important and wonderful reissue by Coleman Hawkins' first great tenor sax rival-before Lester Young, that is. In fact, Bud Freeman shares some of Pres' best virtues: a gift for creating flowing melodies, a deep strain of blues and a special, immensely...


October 2004    Albums

Together Again!
Willis Jackson/Jack McDuff

Together is truly the word for this delightful reissue by Jackson's working band from 1959 to '61, with guitarist Bill Jennings and organist McDuff. Jackson was a thoroughly sentimental and soulful tenor saxophonist with a laid-back attack and a rare knack...


June 2004    Albums

Live in Krakow
David Krakauer

In klezmer music, a clarinet and accompanying accordion play in minor to very-minor keys, and the songs are highly ornamented melodic lines full of trills, vibratos, melismas and bent tones in repeated four-bar cadences. David Krakauer's Klezmer Madness...


May 2004    Albums

Quartet Language
Armen Donelian

There are four near-virtuoso players on Quartet Language, and while there is much to enjoy on this live CD from a 1992 date, I have mixed feelings about pianist-leader Armen Donelian. There's an elusive quality about his solos, which mount grand structures...


May 2004    Albums

Blue Jazz
Malachi Thompson and Africa Brass

Although this was recorded between 2001 and 2003, it sounds like a 1960s date. The repertoire is made up of one-to-three-chord pieces, and the brass band has an older Blue Note sound as it accompanies highly refined hard-bop soloists. The piano, bass and...


04/01/04    Concerts

Cecil Taylor's 75th Birthday Celebration

"The piano should imitate an orchestra," said Jelly Roll Morton, and pianist Duke Ellington went a step further when he made an orchestra his instrument. The next step was to make an orchestra into a big piano, which is what Cecil Taylor did—he gathered...


January/February 2004    Albums

The Long View
Marty Ehrlich

The Long View is a seven-movement suite inspired by the paintings of Oliver Jackson. It's abstraction upon abstraction, as reedist Marty Ehrlich attempts to create the sonic equivalent of Jackson's abstract visual images-but the art of music is already inherently...


January/February 2004    Albums

Wise Children
Tom Harrell

Pitfalls loom everywhere on this disc. Busy charts full of seemingly incongruous effects, accordion, a string quartet, French horns, Latin and rock-fusion rhythms, burbling electric bass, static harmonies, faintly haunting echoes, four famous vocalists singing...


December 2003    Albums

Arthur Blythe

What went wrong? This set starts off well enough with a medium-fast "Cousin Mary," altoist Arthur Blythe reeling off Charlie Parker phrases with abandon, tubaist Bob Stewart playing a boogie line and a fluent John Hicks piano solo over Cecil Brooks III's...

09/28/03    Concerts

Ornette Coleman Quartet in Chicago

Ornette Coleman’s first Chicago concert in at least 15 years opened with a chorus of bowed bass to introduce a sorrowing alto sax song that was much like his 1968 tune “New York.” As a fast tempo appeared and Coleman began pouring out endless cascades of...


June 2003    Albums

Chicago Tenor Duets
Evan Parker/Joe McPhee

Harsh, splintered tone, notes pulverized into tiny fragments of sound, brutal lines that flow with infernal logic: that's the Evan Parker tenor sax style. Or is it? In the first of the Chicago Tenor Duets the English master and Joe McPhee almost breathe...


May 2003    Albums

Tom Christensen

Tom Christensen's group is an eclectic two woodwinds-bass-drums quartet. More often than not he plays tenor sax, and his most obvious stylistic ancestor is early Wayne Shorter, without the heavy downbeats, while his permutations of motives also recall the...


May 2003    Albums

Outra Vez
Lee Konitz/Barbara Casini

I'd rather hear saxophonist Lee Konitz sing than most any other scat vocalist. He does it in "Meditacao" on the Outra Vez CD: After the sweet-voiced Barbara Casini warbles the song straightforwardly, Konitz doo-doo-wees for a jaunty chorus and an obbligato...


April 2003    Albums

Seasoning the Greens
Bill Cole Untempered Ensemble

The music starts with long, very low sounds-didgeridoo, tuba, bowed bass together-that is guaranteed to shake your bricks and rattle your insides. The program is a medley of exotic settings, each with its distinctive fetching rhythms, textures and instrumental...

April 2003    Albums

Matt Wilson Quartet

Humidity is a smorgasbord of 12 songs and settings, nine composed by the New York drummer-leader Matt Wilson. The band plays bop, free-bop and free improvisation, mostly in a quartet setting, and the variety of textures and rhythms is the main attraction...

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About John Litweiler