Reviews

Bold, Colorful and Bracing: 'Stan Getz Quartet, Live at Montreux 1972'

The great band featuring Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Tony Williams, at its best.


Stan Getz

Stan Getz Quartet, Live at Montreux 1972

Label: Eagle Rock
Release date: 2013-10-29
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Many of the great bands in jazz didn’t really play together for all that long. Louis Armstrong’s collaboration with Earl Hines was short-lived. Duke Ellington and John Coltrane made a single one-off recording, but it’s beautiful. Sonny Rollins was just a brawny flash in the Clifford Brown/Max Roach pan. The list goes on.

One of finest bands of this sort is captured on this high quality film from the 1972 Montreux Jazz Festival: The Stan Getz Quartet featuring Chick Corea on piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano, Stanley Clarke on acoustic bass, and Tony Williams on drums.

Corea had played with Getz for a stint around 1967, and then he was off with Sarah Vaughn, then with Miles Davis, and then he formed the beginning of his “Return to Forever” band featuring Clarke on bass. But in 1971, Getz found himself without a band, a tour fully booked, and a phone call from Corea. Getz asked Corea not only to bring his band (sometimes supplemented by Airto Moriera on percussion) but also to write him a fresh book of original songs.

The result was sterling and perfectly integrated studio recording Captain Marvel, and performances like the one, live at the great Swiss jazz festival in June 1972, which featured every track but one from the recording, as well as two other tunes.

Much was made at the time of this band being Getz’s entrée to “fusion” jazz, but the truth is merely that Corea was using, very effectively, the electric piano. His original songs were every bit in Getz’s bag: pulsing and lyrical Latin jazz tunes that could shift into a spritely swing at the drop of a hat. In fact, this sound was an ingenious melding of Corea’s strength as a composer with a background in jazz with a Latin tinge and Getz’s decade-long affair with Brazilian rhythms.

A great example of this is the title song, “Captain Marvel”, that pulses with groove but never resorts to backbeat or rock feel—always burbling with polyrhythmic life and never getting flat. The song is instantly memorable and even anthemic, with a staccato melody that is hard to forget. Imagining this song with the Rhodes sound seems silly; Rhodes gives “Marvel” its pop and sparkle.

The electric piano works equally well, though, on the standard ballad, “I Remember Clifford”, hardly fusion, where Corea plays a lovely intro on Rhodes, which leads into a sweet, slightly skipping melody statement by Getz, with Williams working his snare and cymbals with brushes, just so. The electric piano doesn’t get in the way of Getz’s famously gorgeous tone in any way. In fact, it proves to be a perfect complement: pulsing with a kind of orchestral modulation at key moments, with Getz swooping in and covering things with his thick and tender sound.

Clarke’s playing is equally ripe and clear. His tone on acoustic bass has always been distinctive, and on this date he is playing many double-stop sections where he seems to be strumming the big fiddle like it was a ukulele. His partnership with Williams is something wonderful, as neither holds back. Tony Williams seems to be relishing the chance to play behind a soloist as fully in command as Getz. His snare strikes are sharp, his crash cymbal takes your breath away, and the distinctive way that he uses the high-hat on nearly every eighth note of certain passages of “La Fiesta” is utterly distinctive.

When the rhythm section is on its own, behind Corea’s “La Fiesta” solo, for example, it does seem like they lift off into some new territory, somewhere beyond Getz’s normal reach. But that fresh ground isn’t fusion but rather a marvelously edgy space where the freedoms of Corea’s band Circle are nearly present in the dancing rhythms of the tune. Getz never seems uncomfortable with his new, young band. In fact, he presides over it with a hip middle-aged grace, ready to come back in with the melody statement at the right moment, stronger than he sounder at any other time in his career.

A few words about the year 1972. Man, is Getz’s outfit awesome: a white knit sweater in short sleeves with red and blue color blocks making him look like a leisure suit Mondrian, cream-colored pants (tight), and white shoes. And Williams, holy color saturation, man: blood-red flare pants, topped by a magenta colored shirt with a generous pointed collar. Williams is skinny and incredible, and the DVD arguably climaxes with his spectacular and inventive solo on Corea’s “Time Lies”. But then Getz comes in with his solo, and it amounts to a scintillating duel with Williams, the older master going toe-to-toe with this young guy, no fear at all.

This music, like the fashion, is bold, colorful, bracing, a joy to look back on. This was a great, if short-lived, band. Corea would go on to Return to Forever, greater fame, but never greater music, perhaps. Getz would never have as good band, arguably (though his selection of pianists can’t be questioned: Joanne Brackeen, Jim McNeely, Kenny Barron). And the sound of these songs turns out not to be locked in its era like “fusion” might be. Instead, this mostly Latin jazz sounds like stuff for the ages.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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