Soft Machine: Drop – A new, brilliant sounding archival recording of the Softs in transition. Cut during a German tour in the fall of 1971, founding drummer Robert Wyatt has left, tipping the scale toward the free jazz inclination of saxophonist Elton Dean. Keyboardist Mike Ratledge favors Rhodes piano over organ, steamlining both the older material and the more manic improvisations. An extraordinary find.
Frank Zappa: One Shot Deal – One of the mystery delicacies for sale at the late composer’s website offers very little info on when this music was cut. Upon purchase, we discover it’s largely from the ‘70s with some passages and solos edited together by Zappa himself prior his death in 1993. It’s all beautiful sounding stuff from the orchestral Hermitage to an Inca Roads guitar solo dubbed Ocean’s Razor.
Hank Crawford: True Blue/Double Cross – The recent passing of yet another member of Ray Charles’ titan saxophone team (the third in just over a month) prompted a listen to this 2001 single disc reissue of two early ‘70s Crawford albums. At times the groove is dated with hullabaloo arrangements but on Mellow Down (from True Blue) and Mud Island Blues (from Double Cross), the orchestration is colored in strokes of lustrous blue.
The Derek Trucks Band: Already Free – Guitarist Trucks has an understated yet encyclopedic knowledge of jazz, soul and blues and displays keen ways on Already Free of making those sounds a natural fit for his groove-hearty band. In their hands, Bob Dylan’s Down in the Flood sounds like wiry, primeval blues while Something to Make Happy ibecomes pure Curtis Mayfield street R&B. A warm, unassuming jam band delight.
Paul Motion Trio 2000 + Two: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. II – Motion has a history with the Vanguard, New York’s most treasured jazz club, that goes back to groundbreaking albums cut there with Bill Evans’ trio a half-century ago. Motion’s prime foil for Trio 2000 is tenor saxophonist Chris Potter, who more than compliments rhythms that shift from playful to dreamlike to strident. An album full of beautifully percussive dialogues and ensemble passion.