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Reviews: Jazz discs from Branford Marsalis Quartet, Charlie Hunter Trio

Charlie Hunter Trio featuring Bobby Previte and Curtis Fowlkes, “Let the Bells Ring On” (Charlie Hunter Music). Here is something altogether new. 7-string guitarist Charlie Hunter, drummer Bobby Previte and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes are longtime friends but have never recorded as a trio before. And too, Hunter points out that for at least 20 years, Bobby Previte, of Niagara Falls, has been known as one of jazz’ most ambitious and adventurous composers and bandleaders, even though there are many – jazz fans in Western New York, for instance – who first knew Bobby Previte as a terrific jazz drummer for a new age of jazz. Says Hunter “he’s always been one of my favorite drummers. He came up in the 1960’s and he has the beat. You have to have lived it to have that feel. Because of his composer’s mind, we can play the simplest groove and it becomes something really exciting and compositional.” And so it does here, on this trio disc entirely sans bass. With Hunter’s seven-string quitar, it all works in an oddly, but fully textured, jazz trio. What Hunter says about his trombonist Curtis Fowlkes is “I wanted somebody with a vibe who understands free improv and Al Green and Frank Sinatra and Sam Cooke. I wanted someone who can sing on their horn. I needed Curtis.” An entirely different kind of get-back-to-basics jazz trio. ½ (Jeff Simon)


Branford Marsalis Quartet, “A Love Supreme: Live in Amsterdam” (Okeh/Marsalis Music, disc plus DVD). A celebration of jazz history that is, itself, a remarkable bit of jazz history. John Coltrane’s classic record “A Love Supreme” was issued in February 1965. In the 50 years since its birth, few, if any, have been the musicians to treat Coltrane’s record as anything other than a great jazz monument – never to be touched and always to be revered. Here is that amazing rarity in celebration of “A Love Supreme’s” 50th anniversary year – a spectacular current jazz saxophonist putting his phenomenal quartet to work on Coltrane’s composition. Marsalis, then, is using all of Coltrane’s themes, tempos and rhythms but his incredible quartet is doing it all in their own way, from note to note. This, then, is one of the more phenomenal things that ever happens in jazz: one master player performing the most passionate tribute he can to a greater one by using every bit of his own majestic talent. Obviously, Marsalis couldn’t begin to do this if his pianist Joey Calderazzo weren’t up to providing a McTyneresque harmonic carpet, bassist Eric Revis couldn’t equal the solidity of Jimmy Garrison and, most important of all, if drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts couldn’t do for his saxophone leader some of the glorious things Elvin Jones did for Coltrane. Here is a direct tribute, then, that isn’t the slightest bit derivative or imitative. It’s as much its own extraordinary thing as, say, it would be if his brother Wynton were to play a great Ellington tune. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a DVD of it with great saxophonists discussing “A Love Supreme” – including the late Michael Brecker, Miguel Zenon, Ned Goold and David Sanchez. To cap it all off is a half-hour discussion between Marsalis and Coltrane’s widow and final pianist, Alice Coltrane. Here, then, is an altogether singular tribute to an altogether singular jazz masterpiece.  (Jeff Simon)

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