current listening 02/04/12

+ The Doors: L.A. Woman (1971/2012): While this 40th anniversary edition of L.A. Woman may be a bit late on the draw (it’s really 41 years old), the wait was worthwhile. The reissue pairs The Doors’ finest hour with a bonus disc boasting live rehearsal takes of the entire album. Throughout, Jim Morrison is full of playful bravado. Initially, L.A. Woman returned to The Doors to the top of the charts. Three months after its release, Morrison was dead.

+ Todd Rundgren: With a Twist (1997): Even Rundgren’s most ardent fans were repulsed by With a Twist’s premise of retooling his most popular singles into bossa nova ballads. But the album was no joke with Rundgren providing discreetly sunny yet slightly melancholic shades of summer to classics like I Saw the Light and comparative obscurities like Fidelity. In true Todd fashion, he toured behind With a Twist during the dead of winter.

+ Mingus Big Band: Live at Jazz Standard (2010): Next to Sun Ra’s still-active Arkestra, no large jazz ensemble masters the genius and eccentricities of its namesake leader with more adoration than the Mingus Big Band. Live at Jazz Standard presents the group (bolstered by all-stars like Randy Brecker and Jeff “Tain” Watts) on its New York home turf. What results is a profoundly soulful variation on the sometimes academic exactness of big band tradition.

+ Havana Jam 2 (1979): Unlike it’s more pop-inclined predecessor, Havana Jam 2 brings together jazz traditionalists (Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz), fusion upstarts (Weather Report, John McLaughlin’s Trio of Doom) and some of Cuba’s more devout nationalists (Irakere, before soon-to-be stars Paquito D’Rivera and Arturo Sandoval defected). Out-of-print for literally decades, this worldly jazz summit recently received limited CD release as an import.

* Pierre Moerlen’s Gong: Time is the Key (1978): An admittedly dated chronicle of the famed psychedelic unit during its revamped prog days with percussionist Pierre Moerlen, Time is the Key possesses a decidedly jazzy touch with vibraphone and keyboards leading the charge. The record starts to unravel at the midway point, succumbing to routine funk and fusion. But the first half of Time is the Key is all Mike Oldfield-ish, prog rock heaven.

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