This time around I’ll look at a few different versions of some contemporary tunes, rather than older tunes. The first tune I’ll look at is Daniel Freedman’s “All Brothers,” off of Freedman’s excellent 2012 album Bamako by Bus.
The core quartet from the album of Daniel Freedman on drums, Avishai Cohen on trumpet, Jason Lindner on keys, and Meshell NdegéOcello on bass is joined for this tune by Lionel Loueke on guitar and vocals and Davi Viera on percussion. The tune starts with an introduction from Loueke’s guitar and vocals. At about 0:30, Lindner’s Rhodes tentatively joins in. Not until just before 1:00 does the groove come in, courtesy of Freedman’s drums. At about 1:15, NdegéOcello’s bassline joins and we’re off. Loueke and Lindner are locked in nicely here, as Loueke’s vocals return around 1:45 to complement his guitar. Cohen’s trumpet is first heard around 2:00, moving toward the melodic line that was first set up by Loueke’s vocals, with Lindner’s Rhodes providing a cushion for the melody. After a breakdown, NdegéOcello’s bassline brings the tune back around 2:55 and Cohen moves into a trumpet solo. He gets a beautiful tone here, and around 4:10 when Loueke’s guitar joins in behind the trumpet, it’s something lovely. Another small breakdown, then the bassline pushes forward around 4:30, giving momentum to Cohen’s solo. Some nice call-and-response between Cohen and Loueke around 5:00 as Loueke continues to provide his percussive guitar and vocals. Around 5:30, the torch is passed to Loueke as he takes a guitar solo augmented by his vocal line doubling the guitar. NdegéOcello’s bass is perfect throughout this tune, not doing anything overly complicated, but playing the groove just perfectly. At 6:50, a nice unison line from Cohen, Lindner, and Loueke leads to an extended percussion feature for Freedman and Viera. The rest of the band re-joins at about 7:50 and they continue to play in this groove until it fades. This song is fucking perfect. Go listen and try not to move along with it – it can’t be done. Excellent playing from everyone, highlighted by Loueke’s guitar and vocals. Highly, highly recommended.
“All Brothers” was also included on Anat Cohen’s 2012 album Claroscuro, this time with Cohen on soprano sax, Joe Martin on bass, Jason Lindner on acoustic piano, and Daniel Freedman on drums. Here, the tune starts with Lindner’s prepared piano, first setting up some percussive parts and then moving into the tune’s melody. At about 0:45, Martin’s bassline comes in to start the groove, followed by Freedman’s drums. Cohen’s sax comes in shortly afterward to play the melody, first alone and then in unison with Lindner. After a breakdown led by Cohen’s soaring sax line and backed by Lindner’s beautiful piano, Martin comes in with a modified version of the tune’s bassline at about 3:10, moving around the accents. Lindner takes a solo on the prepared piano, backed by Freedman’s drums, mostly kick drum and hi-hat. Lindner gets a percussive sound out of the piano here that is very reminiscent of Lionel Loueke’s guitar on the Bamako by Bus version of the tune, above. At about 4:45, Lindner moves to a straightforward piano sound, removing whatever had been on the strings and Martin moves back to the tune’s original bassline as Cohen begins a sax solo. She takes a great solo and then at about 6:25, Lindner moves back to the damped piano sound for a drum solo from Freedman. By about 7:10, Lindner has also dropped out, leaving Freedman to take an unaccompanied solo. He brings this drum solo to a close around 7:50, coming back to the hi-hat and kick drum groove from earlier. The rest of the band re-joins, with Cohen playing the tune’s melody. They play through this and then bring the tune to a close.
The third and final version of “All Brothers” that I’ll look at here is from a session for WBGO’s The Checkout. The band here includes Freedman on drums, Anat Cohen on soprano sax, Avishai Cohen on trumpet, Jason Lindner on piano, Lionel Loueke on guitar, Omer Avital on bass, and Gilmar Gomes on percussion. They start with Jason Lindner on prepared piano here, as on Claroscuro. Lindner moves into some cool percussive stuff with damped piano strings before Avital brings in the tune’s bassline and the groove takes off. Lindner then continues playing the prepared piano along with Loueke’s guitar as Anat Cohen plays the tune’s melody, then leaves a nice space for Loueke’s guitar. The second time through the melody, Anat is joined by Avishai Cohen’s trumpet, played through an effects pedal for a synth-like sound. At about 2:30, after a breakdown, Avital brings the groove back with the bassline, accompanied by Lindner and Loueke. Loueke then takes a fantastic lyrical guitar solo, breaking down and harmonizing the “All Brothers” melody. Nice accompaniment from Lindner around 4:00 and some great guitar lines around 4:10 from Loueke. Shortly after that, Loueke starts to play a vamp that’s joined by Anat Cohen, again backed by Avishai Cohen’s effect-altered trumpet. Avishai and Anat together are always something to hear, and this is no exception as Avishai creates a sonic backdrop for Anat’s sax soloing. Avishai’s playing here sounds very Miles-ish, both because of the effects pedals and because of the descending lines that he plays in places here. At about 6:45, the rest of the band drops out for Freedman’s drum solo. Just before 8:00, he brings it back to his hi-hat and is joined by Gomes on percussion. At about 8:55, Lindner’s piano comes back in, followed shortly by the rest of the band. Anat Cohen again plays through the melody with a cushion of sound from Avishai Cohen’s trumpet, Lindner’s rhythmic piano chords, and the insistent bass and drums. Excellent playing all around from the whole band on an inspired version of “All Brothers.”
Switching gears, the next tune I’ll look at is Robert Glasper’s “G&B.” This first appeared as the opening tune on Glasper’s In My Element album from 2007. On the album, Glasper’s piano is joined by Vicente Archer on bass and Damion Reid on drums. This tune opens with a signature Robert Glasper piano trio sound, lush chords over choppy, but grooving, drums courtesy of Damion Reid. At about 0:15, Glasper plays the tune’s melody, moving through the head. There’s a nice composed section to the head around 0:40 here, with some really beautiful, lush chords. At about 1:45, Archer and Reid drop out for a Glasper piano solo. The drums and bass re-join about 20 seconds later as Glasper’s piano solo continues. Reid’s drumming behind Glasper is fantastic – all over the kit, but swinging throughout. At about 4:10, Glasper starts to play some chordal stuff that feels a little out of time, and then the trio coalesces again around 4:30. Incredible piano playing in here – it’s so nice to hear Robert Glasper killing it on an acoustic piano, as much as the Experiment’s electronic sounds are great in their own right. Glasper returns to the tune’s head around 7:05, but leaves plenty of space in between the phrases for Archer’s bass to take a sort of mini-solo. After the trio plays through the head here, they move into a vamp to end the tune, bringing it to a sudden close. Beautiful piano trio playing and a real signature sound from Glasper’s trio.
Glasper’s “G&B” was also the first tune that the Robert Glasper/Jason Moran double trio played in their January 15, 2011 show recorded by WBGO’s The Checkout. The band here is Glasper on acoustic piano, Jason Moran on Rhodes, Alan Hampton on acoustic bass, Mark Kelley on electric bass, and Chris Dave and Eric Harland on drums (!). This version starts out with some staccato playing from Glasper on the piano before he moves into the tune. Moran’s Rhodes joins at about 0:35 (taking 0:00 as the start of the tune) and Glasper gives him some room to move around on top of the acoustic piano chords. At about 1:30, Moran plays some nice spacy Rhodes chords, then drops out briefly. When Moran returns at about 2:20, the tune starts in earnest as Glasper continues to churn out his rhythmic piano chords and Harland and Dave mix it up on the drums. At 3:20, Glasper returns to something like the staccato piano that opened the tune, moving into the “G&B” head at about 4:00. At 4:20, Moran’s Rhodes is playing the “G&B” chords behind Glasper’s acoustic piano melody while Harland and Dave play some crazy rhythms off of each other and the bassline holds this all together. Glasper starts a piano solo at around 5:40 over the insanely churning drums that periodically drop out for the lush piano chords. At 6:15, Glasper hands the reins to Moran for a Rhodes solo, giving it a different feel from the acoustic piano. They continue to trade choruses here, switching between the acoustic piano and Rhodes piano lead while the drums and bass provide an amazing foundation, holding down the rhythm while constantly shifting underneath the soloists. Sort of a Latin feel from Glasper around 8:20… At around 10:00, there’s something new as Harland and Dave play some backbeat drums and Glasper’s acoustic piano continues after his chorus, continuing to play with the Latin feel in places, moving back to “G&B” at about 12:00 and handing things back to Moran on the Rhodes. Moran starts with a spacious solo, almost a classical feel to the chords here as Harland and Dave leave a bit more space. Around 13:00, Moran’s got a vibrato effect on the Rhodes, but he gets rid of that fairly quickly and at 13:30, they’ve hit on a magical on the beat/off the beat feel – maybe there’s a better way to describe that musically, but you’ve just got to listen. Just before 15:00, Moran returns to “G&B” and he and Glasper play a sort of demented-feeling version of the tune’s melody before Glasper again takes the lead over Moran’s chords. The tune’s starting to dissipate a bit around 17:00 with some laid-back chords from Glasper. By 18:30, everyone has dropped out except Harland and Dave on the drums. They get in a nice back-and-forth for about a minute, then end this great version of “G&B”. You’ll definitely want to check this out, along with the rest of the show – it’s streaming over at WBGO’s The Checkout.
And one final version of Robert Glasper’s “G&B”, this time a live version from the Robert Glasper trio with Chris Dave on drums and Derrick Hodge on bass. This is from September 2010 at the Jazz a la Villette festival. The trio opens their concert with “G&B” after Glasper jokes around with the crowd a bit (“G&B” starts just before 4:00). This version, like the version above with Jason Moran, starts with a solo piano introduction from Glasper. At around 4:50 or so, Glasper’s moved into a sort of stride-like piano momentarily. This builds to something around 5:30 with his right hand playing a single repeated note while his left hand improvises nicely around it. At about 6:00, Glasper’s lush chords and the turnaround phrase from “G&B” introduce the tune. Hodge and Dave join in at that point. At 6:35, the trio moves into the “G&B” head, with Chris Dave’s stuttering drums underneath – beautiful stuff. Around 7:30, Glasper’s piano plays a bit more sparsely as Hodge’s bass moves into the foreground with some fat tones. At 8:15, Dave’s drums drop out almost entirely, then begin to re-build momentum underneath Glasper’s piano soloing. Great stuff from the whole trio around 9:30, but Chris Dave in particular is really fantastic here, both supporting the solo and the tune’s rhythm and at the same time knocking them off their axis. Wow. They briefly drop into Dilla’s “Fall in Love” just before 12:00, moving into that organically from Glasper’s piano solo before heading back to “G&B.” Some pretty crazy pointillistic piano from Glasper around 13:30 as Hodge’s bass holds them down. Around 15:00, Glasper plays a three-chord ascending figure and the band moves back toward the “G&B” head, this time with a drum and bass feel from Chris Dave. Beautiful, beautiful stuff, the calm after the storm around 16:20… They begin to fade out around 18:00, leading to a bass solo from Derrick Hodge. Holy moly, what an incredible groove they get into just before 19:00 as the song comes to a close, moving into an unaccompanied bass solo. (If you’re like me, you’ll want to stick around at this point to hear the trio’s version of Herbie Hancock’s “I Have a Dream” that comes out of Hodge’s solo.) A great version of “G&B”, showing off how this trio can shift the tune’s feel dramatically from one beat to the next. Fantastic playing from everyone and a great group feel – even if Hodge and Dave are supporting Glasper’s solo, they’re playing some amazing stuff throughout. Excellent.
As much as I love seeing how jazz tunes can evolve over decades, it’s always great to see how much a tune can change from one version to the next in just a few years. Daniel Freedman’s “All Brothers” (and really the whole Bamako by Bus album – can’t recommend that one highly enough) and Robert Glasper’s “G&B” are great examples of this, with the live versions of the tunes adding new textures and moving in new directions from the album versions.