Miles Davis & John Coltrane

The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6

Wes Montgomery

In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording

Two releases of fabled, much-bootlegged European jazz concerts are finally given proper treatment with remastered sound and impressive packaging/historical info.

From left: Harold Mabern, Wes Montgomery, Arthur Harper, and
Jimmy Lovelace perform at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris
on March 27, 1965. Photo by Jean-Pierre Leloir.

The captivating four-CD box set Miles Davis & John Coltrane, The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 captures this classic pairing in March 1960 at a controversial turning point. Visiting Europe following the release of Kind of Blue, Davis brought along sidemen Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), JIMMY COBB (drums), and rising-star tenor man John Coltrane. But Trane—intent on leaving the group—joined the tour reluctantly, as he’d already migrated to a new concept. Once he began soloing on Miles’ repertoire tunes, the crowd was jolted. Venturing into his then-avant-garde “sheets of sound” for extended stretches, Coltrane was a force apart—or perhaps ahead. Miles was miffed, as legend goes.

Cobb swings unflaggingly through the long numbers with vivacious drive and keen dynamics. When Coltrane dives into foreign waters, Cobb is right there—keeping it straight-ahead but spurring and commenting on the tenor player’s free flow. It’s peak Cobb; listen to his crisp brushes, building to sticks, while kicking Trane on the up-tempo Paris performance of “So What.” Oddly, throughout the length of five concerts, Cobb is given no solo space, not even bars of trading. No matter—one of the most in-demand drummers of the era, Cobb didn’t need to step up front to prove why. (Columbia/Legacy)

The double-disc Wes Montgomery in Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording captures an exuberant, swinging concert from March of 1965 where the influential guitarist stretches out at length. Despite being released five decades later, this set is not a collector’s afterthought; it stands strong alongside Montgomery’s best albums. The percolating band features pianist Harold Mabern, bassist Arthur Harper, and drummer JIMMY LOVELACE, with guesting by tenor great Johnny Griffin.

Lovelace, with his nimble, energizing, bop-rooted drumming, is inspired and spontaneously responsive to everything around him. And on “Jingles” he launches some fiery eights, leading into a blazing solo chorus. Lovelace (1940–2004), who also recorded with George Benson and Junior Mance, remains underappreciated. This thrilling set is an ideal way to discover—or rediscover—this thoroughly swinging drummer. (Resonance) by Jeff Potter

Into the Great Divide Into the Great Divide

MIKE MANGINI lends his considerable talents to a Dream Theater–esque guitar-hero concept record.

Guitarist Zack Zalon’s prog release based on Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey features narration, instrumental fireworks, and spot-on drumming from Dream Theater’s Mike Mangini. The music surely does sound like that of the drummer’s main gig, so parts are executed with the ferocity and skill of time already spent on the job. Mangini attacks “Chapter 1: The Crossing” with expectedly tight double bass and straight-ahead rock power. But check out the drummer’s offbeat cymbal flavors underneath one of the guitar solos in “Chapter 3: Under a Bright Starry Sky,” the slick, rim-riding groove he enters with on “Chapter 5: Challenge Accepted,” and the machine-gun spray of drums on “Chapter 6: Dark Waters.” This stuff is squarely in Mangini’s wheelhouse, and he composes his parts to be fun and always supportive, framing each section with one cool idea after another. The drum recording is also big and warm, with none of those pesky vocals to gum up the works, so you get to hear Mangini’s choices with clarity. ( Ilya Stemkovsky

Pop Evil Pop Evil

Drummer HAYLEY CRAMER propels the Michigan rockers into darker, heavier territory on their new self-titled album.

After joining the band during its final tour leg supporting the 2015 album Up, Hayley Cramer was asked to contribute to the writing sessions for Pop Evil, a decidedly more aggressive album than its four predecessors. Anthemic lead single “Waking Lions” is a perfect vehicle for Cramer’s wide, smashing chorus groove and muscular double kick verse patterns. “Colors Bleed” and “Art of War” dive further into the rap/rock territory that’s emerged on the band’s previous few albums, and Cramer’s rock-solid playing locks everything into place. Her roomy drum sounds, clever fills, and quick double kick punches on “Ex Machina” and swinging, syncopated groove in the chorus of “Nothing but Thieves” rise above the din, though her playing across the album’s eleven tracks is rock solid. (Entertainment One) Ben Meyer

Legend of the Seagullmen Legend of the Seagullmen

Hard rock and tales of the sea, featuring Tool’s DANNY CAREY.

While we all sit around waiting for a new Tool album (it’s coming, definitely maybe), drummer Danny Carey is keeping busy, you know, playing music, and his new project features his own idiosyncratic drumming and Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds on a set of surreal metal sea shanties that are sometimes entertaining and sometimes less than consequential. Carey blasts away at “We Are the Seagullmen” with an intense galloping groove somewhere between a shuffle and a tribal war dance. Tom-toms figure prominently in “The Fogger,” until things break down in the middle for a mini drum solo filled with big rolls and double bass phrases. Elsewhere there are up-tempo rockers like the title track and slower, dirge-like numbers such as “Rise of the Giant,” where the drumming is possibly more conventional than anything Carey has ever done with Tool. Whether this music translates to a stage and becomes more exciting is left to be seen, and though the material isn’t quite the thrill it could be, Carey plays with conviction, and it’s obvious everyone is having a good time. ( Ilya Stemkovsky

Ron Miles I Am a Man

Given the amount of space for interpretation in cornetist Ron Miles’ beautiful compositions, BRIAN BLADE is a perfect choice to occupy the drum stool.

On I Am a Man, Brian Blade plays the bits between the road signs with remarkable intention and execution, reminiscent of his own Fellowship group as well as one of leader Ron Miles’ earlier projects, the DJQ2O featuring Ginger Baker. Guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist Jason Moran, and bassist Thomas Morgan join Blade in gracefully unwrapping each song. The opening title track takes a jaunty and joyous funk turn, while the bombastic freeform intro of “Darken My Door” leads to a relaxing soundscape in 7/4. Drums subtly shade the cornet on “The Gift That Keeps On Giving” while providing rhythmic fire underneath Miles’ long tones. And with his energetic support on “Revolutionary Congregation,” Blade reminds us—as if we need reminding—that he knows when to listen and when to react. (Yellowbird) Robin Tolleson


Ilios Steryannis Bethany Project

A Toronto-based drummer/composer leads an ambitious and exuberant session, exploring the music of West Africa, his own Mediterranean roots, and American jazz and funk.

On Bethany Project, drummer Ilios Steryannis keeps a firm grip on multiple styles and shows an ear not only for conducting the group’s dynamics from the kit but for pulling choice sounds from the drums. The equally versatile supporting cast features a strong voice in alto saxophonist Sundar Viswanathan and rhythmic energy from percussionists Larry Graves and Adam Hay. A guanguancó in 7/4 lets the ensemble crackle, before the sizzling 7/4 funk of “College Street Knowledge” gives the leader a chance to show off nifty drum chops over the stop time. Steryannis is equally at home navigating the 12/8 grooves of “Mombasa Lisa,” the 11/8 “Alek’s 11,” and the 21/8 “Mangambe,” and mimicking the sly vibe of two musical heroes on “ScoJoe.” ( Robin Tolleson