A Fistful of Jazz Record Reviews

Ah, yes, Jazz, one of my favorite genres of music. A lot of people say they like jazz, but few people have recommended records to me, or talk about their favorites. People obviously know a few classic names, or even modern names, but what about the rest? For that reason I once started a blog about Jazz music and I wrote quick reviews about them. As I got into blogging deeper, I decided to drop that label and work on other things. However, these reviews are still viable, which is why I wanted to share them here. So here you go, a fistful of jazz record reviews from the past written by yours truly. They are rough, unedited and well, older, but they still rock, or rather jazz? Is that a verb? I don’t know. Here you go with some jazzy tunes to buy and listen to whenever you get a chance.

Drums Unlimited by Max Roach

Ah, jazz records. Most people want to argue about the classics, but I will tell you, drums are the most incredible parts of jazz for me. I don’t know why, but whenever I hear Max Roach or any of the famed drummers from the golden era of jazz, I have to pick up on the percussion. I love it. I also love trumpet, but there’s something about how some of the tuning and precision of the skins really works out. That being said, Max Roach is my favorite jazz drummer and one of my favorite records from him and his friends is none other than the Atlantic Records release from 1966, “Drums Unlimited”.

This doesn’t have a ton of songs on it, but what you get is some classic drumming and even a Christmas tune. “Nommo” is my favorite on this one, but the whole thing is really good. What I appreciated about this record, aside from the drums, of course, is that I loved the bass. The bass work from Jymie Merritt is amazing. The record has a beautiful mix of jazz compositions, but with a great deal of bass work to offset the drumming that Roach is known for.

If you’re a fan of jazz music in general, or you’re looking for a starting point, I am going to go against the grain and pick up Max Roach’s “Drums Unlimited”. I love the contrast of styles here, and the lineup is absolutely stellar. Now here’s the kicker, you can pick up this record for $2 used, so there’s no excuse for not listening to some good jazz here. “Drums Unlimited”, that’s my pick for you today, I love it.

Clifford Brown and Max Roach at Basin Street

The Clifford Brown and Max Roach quintet is arguably one of the best in modern jazz. This record proves it in many ways, as you will get 13 tracks of amazing music. Originally released in 1956, this is a record that keeps on giving, in my humble opinion. It has been re-released and remastered, but you can still find the original if you’re a true audiophile. As far as the Clifford Brown-Max Roach quintet, you have to admit, when Sonny Rollins joined the group, they really put on a jazzy clinic.

You can pick up “At Basin Street” by Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet for $10.99 new, but if you’re broke like me, you can get it for under $2 by clicking here. It’s easily one of the better jazz records you’re going to get right now.

The Roar of 74 by Buddy Rich

Holy crap, how did no one recommend this to me before? I’m absolutely floored by this record. The bass, the trumpet, the saxophone, the drumming! Buddy Rich blew me away in 8 tracks of absolute fire. This is an incredible release with a lot of great moments. If you loved the 1970s and the 1980s exploitation movie scene, then you probably remember this type of music quite well. Buddy Rich put out this record way back in 1973 and later in 1974 in the UK. It is very much a “big band” album with a lot of notes to funk, jazz, experimental drumming and so much more. The crew on here wow, lots to explore in this record. You are not going to find another album with so much complexity, and tempo change, solo work, improvisational jazz momentum and more.

“Nuttville” alone is going to floor you. If you listen to “The Roar of 74” and you don’t like it, basically F you. I’m sorry. You’re wrong. You don’t like music. As a bass player, and a musician, I’m absolutely enthralled with this record, and I had to find it by accident? The album cover is awesome, the keyboards, the drums, the whole concept is fun. I’m definitely giving this my highest recommendation for the jazz new comer to the jazz enthusiast. You gotta pick this one up, what’s wrong with you? I love it. Man, this is some high quality jazz people.

Heavy Sax by Gene Ammons

Let’s talk a little jazz today, Gene Ammons “Heavy Sax” is a record that was initially released in 1974. This was on Olympic Records, and you can definitely find it floating around for a buck or two in vinyl record bins. I saw it at Amoeba Records for a dollar in the used jazz section back in Los Angeles. I didn’t get it then, but I should’ve. Right now, you can pick it up dirt cheap on vinyl, or you can download it cheap too. Ok, so Gene Ammons is a stellar musician, but on this record you get a bit more than just his jazz solo work. There’s a guitar in here, and a trumpet amidst the saxophone improvisation that is going on. There’s a good mix of elements making up this record across 4 tracks. I’m always impressed by how jazz records can put together so much in just 4 tracks. With “Heavy Sax”, Ammons creates a nice layered approach to the music, with some great movements across “House Warmin”, “Jivin’ Around”, and “Nothing But Soul”. Of course, “Jug-n-McGhee” is good, but to me, it’s the third track that really stands out. There’s so much sax it’s, well, heavy! All kidding aside, I read that this isn’t the best of Gene Ammons career, but if you ask me, it’s really good. It’s a playful 34 minutes of jazz and blues. I like the mix of sax and trumpet here, and how they each dance alongside some simple blues guitar and simple drumming. A good overall record, and one that you can get cheap.

Max Roach Live in Berlin Review

Fans of jazz music will always tell you that seeing it live is an incredible thing. Of course, most of us weren’t alive or had the means to see some of the greats from the modern jazz era. But there’s always recordings, right? That’s what I think about when listening to Max Roach’s “Live in Berlin” record. This record came out in 1984, and it’s one of the greats. It seems so effortless, the tracks going through the motions of modernity. It’s these tunes that become iconic for jazz lovers. There’s a bit of blues thrown into the jazz formula, and nothing here seems out of place. It’s the type of record you put on with a cup of tea or coffee, and just enjoy the bliss of the sounds. Things just seems so easy in this melodic live record, and yet if you’ve ever played music, you know how complex the compositions are.

Kind of Roach by Max Roach Box Set (10 DISCS)

Some people prefer to buy a lot of jazz at once, and I don’t blame them. Here’s an example of a steal in my opinion. This is a 10 disc box set of Max Roach records. It’s priced at an insane value for modern jazz, if you ask me. It includes “Blue Waltz”, “Audio Blues”, “Conversation”, “At New Port”, “What Am I Hear For”, “Mr. X”, “The Scene is Clean”, “Figure Eights”, “Land’s End”, and “Drum Conversation”. This has some of his best cuts from the 1950s, including a lot of solos, lots of work in the modern jazz sense, and stellar arrangements, as you’d expect from Max Roach. I’m flabbergasted by the value we place on jazz music, but hey, I can’t complain. This is a great set to have.

Deeds, Not Words By Max Roach

Going back in our time machine to 1958, you get an early recording from jazz drummer Max Roach. This time around, “Deeds, Not Words” was released on Riverside Records. It features some stellar drumming, as you would come to expect from the modern jazz movement of the time. Roach once again brings together a good line up of musicians to play through jazz standards, and it’s easy to once again call this “hard bop”, but I won’t. On production again, you get Max Roach on the drums, but you will see a different line up than other records. It includes Booker Little (trumpet), Ray Draper (tuba), George Coleman (tenor sax), Art Davis (bass), Oscar Pettiford (bass), and it’s 43 minutes of great jazzy from New York City to your ears.

The Max Roach Trio featuring the Legendary Hasaan Ibn

Atlantic Records released this amazing record in 1965, even though it was recorded in December of 1964. The album, as you may know is the only recording of Hasaan Ibn Ali that has ever been released. He’s a legend in modern jazz, however. This is record that has a classic feel to it, and knowing that fact makes this all the more intriguing. I heard Ali would go into obscurity after the making of this one. Regardless, the trio puts on a show, with Max Roach (drums), Hasaan Ibn Ali (piano), and Art Davis (bass). If you like jazz trios, this is a record that fits into the must hear, and buy. The drumming is perfect here, but it’s the bass and piano elements that get me each time.

For those of you that are reading this and are all pumped for some vinyl records, I recommend going here, and picking them up.

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