Saturday, March 08, 2008
I first heard percussionist Milton Cardona in the context of Kip Hanrahan's work in the early 80s. This album, "Bembe", appeared on American Clave in '86 and it's a beaut. It's entirely devoted to Santeria chants with a group made up of a lead singer and percussionist (Cardona) and an ensemble of response singers and percussionists (the drummers including Hector "Flaco" Hernandez, Steve Berrios and Jose Fernandez). My working knowledge of Santeria music is just above minimal so I can't really say how representative this is, but the impression I get is that Cardona knows what he's doing and it sounds damned real to me. Gorgeous Afro-Cuban melodies, stirring (and rough) choral singing and hypnotic percussion combine for a moving, thrilling recording. I'd appreciate any recommendations along this line.
While researching a bit, I noticed Cardona put out another disc under his name, "Cambucha", in 1999, also on American Clave; interested to hear that. Though Hanrahan-led or produced projects in recent years have left me a bit cold. I picked up Deep Rumba last year and, expecting great things, was let down.
Along with Billie Holiday, Betty Carter has always been my favorite female jazz singer. I bought this recording pretty early in my listening, maybe around '76, rather odd in the context of the other things I was listening to at the time (AACM, Taylor, Ornette, etc.) but Carter's singing inevitably melted me. I have a few other releases but have always enjoyed this one the most. I believe it was something of a comeback record, recorded in 1969 at Judson Hall, NYC with Norman Simmons on piano, the great Lisle Atkinson on bass and Al Harewood on drums. A fantastic series of tunes including "Blue Moon" (taken drastically up tempo), "The Sun Died", "Girl Talk" and a fantabulous rendition of Randy Weston's "Ego". Her elasticity is astonishing, bending and warping the melodies into pure Carteriana.
I never had the occasion to see her perform, which I greatly regret. Everything I've read about her indicates, music aside, she was something special.
There's one other Carter amongst my vinyl, John. Never really explored his work as much as I probably should have, with only this and the follow-up, "Dance of the Love Ghosts" under his name, plus a fine Hat disc with Bobby Bradford, "Movin' On".
I know this Ghana sequence (were there three or four albums in the series? I don't quite recall) is hailed by many as one of the signal achievements of jazz in the 80s. While I enjoy it very much, I've never quite gone that far. It's interesting, listening now, to hear tinges of the same tonalities that Ornette used in his symphonic work, "Skies of America" considering that they grew up together. The title track from this one is something of a monster, especially once Carter's burbling clarinet surfaces alongside Bradford's cornet. The remainder of the album doesn't quite live up to that, though it's fine in a good-Muhal kinda way, even if Terry Jenoure's vocals are a bit woozy.
"Dance of the Love Ghosts" (admittedly, I have a tough time getting past the title) strikes me as less focussed and a tad shrill; not bad at all but not the stuff of legends.
I get the sense that I'd generally have enjoyed Carter in small group settings (like that "Movin' On" date). Recommendations in that vein appreciated.
Knut Hamsun - Hunger
John Crowley - Little, Big