Explore These Live Albums, As Gigs Are Slow To Materialize

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A live Alice Coltrane recording from 1972 marks a turning point in her music.

(Photo: DownBeat Archives)

Festivals in the States still aren’t happening, though some in Europe are moving ahead despite the uncertainty around the course of the pandemic. Smalls in New York also recently started streaming live performances of small ensembles, even if a crowd wasn’t admitted to the venue.

So, to tide you over until it’s safe to congregate at clubs and festivals, DownBeat thought offering up some choice live recordings would take the sting out of missing gigs this spring.

What follows isn’t intended to be “the best” or near-comprehensive. It’s just stuff we like.

Duchess, Live At Jazz Standard (2020)

Singers Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou channel a lot of bracing harmonies and the cheeky wit of the Boswell Sisters, then delve into a batch of vintage jazz tunes. Duchess also tips its hat to its lodestar, the Andrews Sisters, with sterling versions of “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” “Joseph, Joseph” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The Music Of Wayne Shorter (2020)

When Jazz At Lincoln Center established its own orchestra in 1988, part of the idea was to showcase the repertoire of jazz greats. At first, the emphasis was on giants of the past, but with The Music Of Wayne Shorter, recorded live in 2015, the group not only salutes jazz’s greatest living composer, but includes him as featured soloist.

Alice Coltrane Sextet, Live At The Berkeley Community Theater 1972 (2019)

By 1972, Coltrane was at the tail end of her Impulse deal, and on the brink of fully embracing the synthesizer for future studio albums. This live date finds the bandleader opening with a discussion of a trip to India and mentioning Satchidananda Saraswati, whose spiritual influence would guide Coltrane’s music during the ensuing years. Joined by bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Ben Riley, the band is augmented by Aashish Khan on sarod, Pranesh Khan on tabla, and Bobby W. on tambora and percussion. The version of “A Love Supreme” here ranks among the tune’s most intense.

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June 2021
Vijay Iyer
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