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Listening Post: Larry Young, Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim and the young Gypsy Jazz Band Rhythm Future

Jazz

Larry Young, “In Paris: The ORTF Recordings” (Resonance, two discs). For the longest time, it seemed close to impossible for the tribe of current jazz organists to think seriously of any of their forebears but Jimmy Smith and his lesser funk/soul brethren like Richard “Groove” Holmes, Don Patton and Brother Jack McDuff. But all that has changed significantly in the past decade. 21st century performers on the Hammond B-3 that was once standard in blue-collar jazz cubs of the late 20th century now realize that Larry Young represented something altogether different from Smith’s high-energy R&B bebop screaming and McDuff/Holmes’ funkmanship. Young was a powerhouse improviser because of musicianship far more than showmanship in the Hammond B-3 tradition. What Resonance Records’ Zev Feldman writes here about “the first modal player on the organ” is that “it’s been nearly 38-years since there has been a new release under his name. In the case of this album, it’s particularly exciting because none of this music has been heard before except on its initial broadcast in France five decades ago.” What’s here is burning and terrific music from 1964 to 1966 with Young and a whole lot of blistering Woody Shaw on trumpet, along with tenor saxophonist Nathan Davis, who more than earns his place with Shaw and Young. The disc notes are some of the best anywhere on jazz records these days. One of them quotes Buffalo’s Dr. Lonnie Smith informing us that those Blue Note organ records of that time were all recorded on the same instrument that wasn’t, technically, a Hammond B-3 but rather a C-3. What Smith says about Young – who died in 1978 – is that, unlike Smith, Young “didn’t have a real heavy percussive sound ... The smoothness had more of a legato than a percussive feel.” Nevertheless, the swing and the burn on so many of these newly available European performances is ferocious. You’ll also find in those notes, Young tributes from John Medeski, Woody Shaw’s son, John McLaughlin, Jack Bruce and Bill Laswell. Later Young would play with Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and, most famously, in Tony Williams’ Lifetime with McLaughlin. If any 21st century two-disc set could be any better at introducing Young to new jazz ears, I can’t imagine it. He was a phenomenal player and needs to be generally known, not cultishly known. A great two disc set. ŒŒŒŒ (Jeff Simon)

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Rhythm Future Quartet, “Travels” (Rhythm Future Quartet). If you had told Django Reinhardt in the ’30s that one day there’d be an entire musical genre – “gypsy jazz” – to name what he and Stephane Grappelli played with so much fierce individuality in their Hot Club of France Quintet, he’d have been skeptical in the extreme. So, for that matter, would any post-bebop player of the ’50s. But these days there are so many mini-Djangos all over the world and so many young and passionate adherents to “gypsy jazz” that these wonderful string jazz ensembles have turned, since the ’90s, into one of the most joyous of current jazz genres. Here is a quartet of young players that are instantly among the best of the best – Rhythm Future, a quartet named after a Django composition and in full-blooded tribute to Django’s Hot Club of France. On this, its second disc, the band contributes a full palatte of originals, every one of which proves that the cause of Gypsy Jazz couldn’t be in better hands. The disc is irresistible. ŒŒŒŒ. (Jeff Simon)

Classical

Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim, “Live from Buenos Aires: Works of Schumann, Debussy and Bartok” (Deutsche Grammophon). What meets the ear here is a good deal less than what meets the eye. In theory, these two great piano virtuosi and musical spirits from Argentina – who used to perform together as child prodigies – would be a towering duo whenever they performed together and whatever they played, especially if they were doing it back in their native Argentina. The theory, I’m afraid, remains stubbornly theoretical in this live performance from last July of Schumann’s “Six Studies in Canon Form, Op. 60”, Debussy’s “En Blanc et Noir,” and Bartok’s “Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion.” Anyone expecting the sensational firepower of their performance of Stravinsky’s two-piano adaptation of “The Rite of Spring” is brought up short immediately by the vastly different climate of Schumann’s “Six Studies in Canon Form.” Debussy and Bartok should be much more in their duo piano wheelhouse but they’re not, oddly. What should have been full of commanding sonority and no small urgency is lost in the sort of propriety that is virtually indistinguishable from academicism. It goes without saying that these performances are capable and proficient but there are so many better performances on record of both the Bartok and Debussy. ŒŒŒ (Jeff Simon)

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