We Need to Dance
After the Miami Heat intro vids and The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings: Ninth Edition.
**** Dwyane Wade, Number Three Guard. Highly unexpected set from an alto player best known for his pitch-perfect standards and ballads. Here, Wade stretches out in various spare trio settings. With piano and drums, he sets up dense thickets of squelches and squeals; piano and bass bring out his deliberate, elegiac side like never before; in the more conventional sax/bass/drums format, Wade tears through angular post-bop originals like a man pushing his creative capacity to the point of exhaustion, even collapse.
*** Udonis Haslem, Forty Forward. Haslem had always been a sturdy pianist in the Bobby Timmons vein, but when got the chance to record for Blue Note, he took advantage of the extra rehearsal time and created something far more ambitious. Sticking to the standard soul jazz trio, and finding himself constantly returning to its cliches, Haslem nevertheless aims high with these forty short pieces about his conversion to Islam and travels in the Middle East. Engimatic bassist Babar, making his only appearance on record here, is the only one whose solos consistently realize this exalted mood.
***1/2 Mario Chalmers, C-H-A-L-M-E-R-S. There were plenty of other trumpeters around New York with the same slashing tone, technical facility, and knack for heady skeins of harmonic sophistication. Sons of Miles and Dizzy alike, they were a dime a dozen, each more impressive than the next and thus somehow bringing the whole bunch down. What makes Marion Chalmers's debut so remarkable is that not only does he capture a moment, he transcends it due in no small part due to the fast company he keeps.
***** Michael Beasley, Forward. Beasley was a prodigy in the truest, and most unfortunate, sense. He was barely in his twenties when this masterpiece was recorded, and already had several standards to his name. Forward was unlike any other jazz being made at the time, and it remains elusive to this day. Employing a crude form of multi-tracking, unorthodox combinations like flugelhorn, banjo, and bagpipes, and sometimes changing instruments mid-improvisation, it's nevertheless Beasley's raw, vibrant piano that steals the show.
**1/2 Carlos Arroyo, Number Eight. Blue Note rarely attempted to cash in on trends, but one of its few truly venal records is also one of the strangest. Arroyo was a largely forgettable salsa pianist with progressive tendencies. Cutting Latin versions of the music from the then-obscure British television series The Prisoner falls somewhere between crass opportunism and off-beat pop culture plundering. Arroyo is all over the place, sometimes solemn, oftentimes festive, as if he were at once trying to take the material too seriously and reject its source. A curiosity worth hearing.
*** Quentin Richardson, Five. An oddly iconic title for such a workmanlike set. Richardson's trombone can be heard on a slew of other recordings from this period, ranging from proto-funk to cerebral cool. He's the sort of player, and writer, whose solos and compositions typically include at least one passage of utter ingenuity and another that borders on pap. Five is his only solo effort. While far from the archetypal quintet outting, it's nevertheless admirable from start to finish.
** Daequan Cook, Number Fourteen Guard. Cook was a sporadic, slapdash drummer best known for his hi-hat flourishes and otherwise low-key timekeeping. This is the kind of record that should discourage drummers from ever thinking they can take the lead in the studio, even if the label's put them up to it.