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Like Minds
Gary Burton: Vibraphone
Chick Corea: Piano
Pat Metheny: Guitar
Roy Haynes: Drums
Dave Holland: Bass

Review By Ray Chowkwanyun
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Like Minds

LP Number: Pure Audiophile PA 003 (2)

 

  Talk about ye gathering of ye eagles! What can you say about Gary Burton (who also produced the original recording)? They named a grip after him, fer Chissakes! Not to mention winning a Grammy for his playing on this very same album. Chick Corea: distinguished alumnus from the Miles Davis School of Jazz who played on the classic album, In a Silent Way. Ditto Dave Holland. Pat Metheny is about the closest thing to a superstar in jazz today. I confess I'd never heard of Roy Haynes, but his resume also lists Miles - along with a few other names you've probably never heard of: Armstrong, Holiday, Young, Parker, Powell, Monk, Gillespie, Rollins, and Coltrane. Yikes! The stories he must have. And his drumming matches his resume: awesome.

This is a reunion album for Burton, Corea and Metheny (who got his start in Burton's band) and at one time or another they've all been part of the ECM label (of which I'm a huge fan). Dave Holland still records for ECM. Not surprisingly then this album sounds a lot like an ECM record, musically speaking. That label espoused a certain cerebral style of jazz exemplified by musicians such as Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, John Abercrombie, Jack DeJohnette and indeed, Dave Holland himself (did I mention he plays bass on this album?). I think it would be fair to characterize ECM as the Bach of jazz. 'tis home to jazz for the thinking man.

The ten tracks on this album trace an arc from gentle to intense starting with Metheny's warm, meditative "Question and Answer". Burton lays down a curtain of chimes through which Haynes pokes some tasty cymbal work. Holland's bass comes in great waves and is a solid anchor. Corea darts in and out with quick bursts on the piano. The next song, "Elucidation," picks up the tempo with Corea especially providing some driving piano chords. Burton follows suit with some hard driving of his own on the vibes. Metheny's compositional trademark is sleek, elegant, ultrasophisticated melodies. It's all very Bauhaus. The song concludes with a crackling flourish on the drums, courtesy of Mr. Haynes. The last rimshot sounds like a Magnum 45 going off. Side A closes out with Corea's melancholy classic "Windows." His compositions are more overtly emotional compared to the cool logic of Metheny's Appolonian structures. Haynes does a spectacular polyrhythmic Elvin Jones number on the drums. Holland wisely sticks to a simple bass line and leaves the pyrotechnics to his rhythm mate.

A casual listener might dismiss these songs as so much New Age rubbish. That would be a mistake! These tunes repay close, attentive listening and while it may take some time to get in tune with this music, the flip side is that it stands up well to repeated listening. Metheny's seemingly facile guitar is especially deceptive. There is strength of emotion beneath the surface impression of aimless noodling. These guys are subtle. It's just that they don't shout at the tops of their voices. They accomplish wonders with a little strategically placed extra emphasis here and there.

On "Futures", the ensemble playing is of the highest standard. Years of playing together allow Corea and Burton to make of the piano and vibes a single instrument. The music slowly builds as the rippling runs of Corea's piano segue seamlessly into Burton's battery of vibes. Metheny does bendy things with his guitar. Haynes plays wonderfully understated drums, this time allowing Holland to stretch out on bass. In the liner notes, Gary Burton modestly claims to not be as compositionally accomplished as Corea and Metheny. Bite yr tongue, Gary! His original contribution to this album titled (surprise!) "Like Minds" comes crackling out of the starting gate as Gary attacks the vibes. They're off to the races with Metheny tearing off the closest thing, for him, to a rip-snorting solo. Holland also contributes a hot fast solo before the number (and Side B) closes out with more hard hitting vibes and piano.

On "Country Roads", Dave Holland summons oceans of deep bass that (literally) shake the rafters, reminding us why he is a bandleader in his own right. Burton swings hard on the vibes. Metheny spins fast circular tunes in pseudo 50's hipster style. Corea responds with some hot chords, but the star of this song is Holland's bass as he runs all the way up and down the scale. You can feel the plunk of his bass as pressure on the chest. On "Tears Of Rain", we hear more of Roy Haynes' expert work on the cymbals. He lays down a velvet carpet of shimmering crashes, punctuated by the occasional whipcracking rimshot. This mournful song is a tight ensemble number as vibes and piano swirl around Metheny's pensive guitar that eventually takes off on a searing solo before diminishing to a quiet end.

Gershwin's tune "Soon" is the only song not written by one of the band members. I think George would have a hard time recognizing his creation after its transformation by this group. The players take this as their chance to relax and stretch out on a number of extended solos starting with Burton's ringing vibes. Metheny takes over with one of his trademark solos full of fast runs. The mood is mellow. Burton takes over again for a short while before Corea adds his own hard charging riffs. There is even time for a quick duet between Holland and Haynes before the entire band reprises the main tune. So ends Side C.

"For A Thousand Years" is a wistful Metheny composition that allows Roy Haynes to show off some lovely brushwork and for Holland to again strut his stuff on bass. Vibes and guitar play together before Corea does his own take on the tune. The whole band then joins together to wring the maximum emotion out of Metheny's melody. On "Straight Up And Down", as the title suggests, the melody runs up and down the scales. Naturally Corea has first say on his own composition before piano and guitar throw the main theme back and forth. Vibes add a superhot solo running all the way up and down the scale. Haynes finally gets a chance to solo and makes the most of it with some rumbling runs on the tubs. Gads, his rimshots do sound like gunshots.

They've included a bonus track, "Bag's Groove" from Burton's For Hamp, Red, Bags, and Cal. Smart marketing to get you hooked on the next release. Awesome Ray Brownesque solo by Christian McBride on bass. It's no wonder that the spotlight is on the bass when the mastering engineer is a bass player. Burton plays his vibes in a way I can only describe as hard rockin'. Dennis is gonna kill me for saying this, but I liked this bonus track the best of all the songs on this album!

 

The Sound

I'm a huge fan of the Concord Label for which this album was originally recorded before being re-mastered by Stan "the Immortal" Ricker and re-released by Dennis "the Indomitable" Cassidy on his Pure Audiophile label. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of the original Concord recording with which to compare this audiophile re-incarnation, but I'd hazard that this LP sounds pretty close to and probably even matches the master tape. It has that relaxed, easy quality that is so typical of tape. Play this album really loud and find yourself transported to a jazz club.

The ability of the LP to accurately reproduce music never ceases to astonish. Maybe it has to do with the fact that this pressing is made on blue vinyl. Yup, vinyl doesn't have to be black. It's an additive (lamp black) that gives it that color. And Dennis thinks it's evil, Evil, EVIL! Blue is better 'cause it's stiffer, sez Dennis. Based on the evidence of this album, I'd be hard (ahem) pressed to disagree. Blue cymbals have a lovely shimmer to them and sound like the real thing.

The Concord sound is warm, rounded, plummy and borders on the bloated (without quite crossing the line). As such, it's a perfect match for the kind of Broadway jazz in which the label specializes with artists like Mel Tormé, George Shearing, the LA Four, and Jeff Hamilton (the sax player). While the sound of this album is typically Concord, the music most certainly is not. As discussed extensively above, it is firmly of the ECM school of cerebral jazz. So think of this as ECM music delivered in Concord sound. I just mention this so that Concord fans will be prepared for a more austere brand of jazz than is usually to be found on that label.

Is this album worth the eye-popping price of fifty bucks? That is a highly personal judgment, but for my money (and of course it ain't 'cus I copped a promo copy - thanks, Dennis!) it definitely is. Assuming you like the music, 'natch but I think I beat that horse just about as dead as can be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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