Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Jazz Project - Fangs

One of my great pleasures in life is discovering new jazz albums. I don't think I have to tell anyone who knows anything about jazz that major-label jazz is dead. No labored breathing, no last gasps, it's just gone. If you like the smooth suff . . . well, you can stick it in your Amazon cart along with the latest Britney Spears album in full confidence that there will be plenty more where that came from. But I haven't heard anything new on a major label that I really liked since Horace Silver's last album came out on Verve in 1999. Reissues? Well, now that the Blue Note and OJC catalogues have been pretty well exhausted, what remains might be interesting (Chess, Duke/Peacock, etc.) but I don't think there are any hidden Sidewinder's or Soul Station's left out there. (Unless you count Sonny Criss's At The Crossroads, which has been released in Japan.)

In some respects I've been very fortunate in that my Hard Bop site has been fairly popular. As a result I've received numerous copies of CDs I never would have stumbled across in a million years. Yoav Polachek's Standards First and Stacie McGregor's Straight Up came to me through eager press agents who were willing to send me promo discs. Both were fantastic and I have been effusive supporters of both on my site. But the most exciting revelation came with guitarist Jake Langley. As a fan for years of Grant Green and Kenny Burrell, I obviously wanted a younger representative of the hard bop guitar style on my site, and for a while I had to settle for Mark Whitfield, though I was never really enamored of his playing. All of that changed, however, when I stumbled across Doug's Garage in doing research for my book on Horace Silver. Jake Langley is the real deal, and why he is not yet a world-wide jazz phenomenon never fails to astound me.

All of which brings me to Fangs. A couple of years ago now, the oldest son of my best friend made me a CD with a variety of jazz things that he liked and wanted to share with me. One of them was an old Harold Mabern tune called "Rakin' and Scrapin'" that had a classic, late-60s Blue Note/Prestige tenor-and-organ sound. I naturally assumed it was one of the dozens of albums of that era that Prestige has been slowly leaking into the market, first in their gawd-awfully marketed "Legends of Acid Jazz" series and subsequently in less embarrasing two-fers. But no, it turned out that this was recent release by his saxophone teacher, Garry Hammond, and the great Hadley Caliman. I immediately bought a copy of it on CD Baby and could hardly stop listening to it. Fangs is, pure and simple, a great jazz album. But you don't need to take my word for it. Listen for yourself to Hammond's "Slightly In The Tradition" and I dare you not to buy the album.

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