Jazz Guitar – Music & Words

October 30, 2012

Starting in 1996, master guitarist Dale Bruning and jazz writer and producer Jude Hibler have presented live shows under the banner of their Colorado-based company, Jazz Link Enterprises. In particular and of especial interest to all who love the music of the great American songwriters are their Timeless Music of Great Composers Concerts. In these, Jude narrates the life of a chosen composer from the golden age of American popular music, explaining with anecdotes the origins of some of the most memorable songs. Then, Dale performs superb interpretations of these songs, usually with his various-sized ensembles. Among many songwriters whose work they have performed in this way are Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart/Oscar Hammerstein II, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter. In these shows, the narration is informed and succinct, adding immeasurably to the audience’s enjoyment and understanding of the music. From time to time, through their record company, Dale and Jude have released CDs of some of their shows. Understandably, though sadly, the narration is omitted although the CD buyer can enjoy a taste of this through the accompanying liner notes. On the CDs so far released are tributes to composers Harold Arlen, Harry Warren and George Gershwin. dalebruning-haroldarlen cdThese albums are: The Timeless Music of Harold Arlen (Jazz Link Enterprises JLECD 6029), The Timeless Music of Harry Warren (JLECD 7938), Music Of Gershwin, By George! (JLECD-6804). On all of these releases the significance of the particular composers is vividly apparent and it also emerges why they have long found favor with jazz musicians.

There are other concert collaborations between Dale and Jude on different themes and among these is one that was recorded live at Dazzle Restaurant & Lounge in Denver. This is Classical Connections – Vol I & Vol II (JLECD 4860 & JLECD 7482). The choice of music here is, as always, exemplary and includes Besame Mucho, Lover Come Back To Me, The Breeze And I, Baubles, Bangles And Beads, which sit comfortably alongside pieces from the classical repertoire, by J.S. Bach, Joaquin Rodrigo and Aaron Copeland. Particularly interesting are examples of the way in which popular music has drawn from the classical repertoire: classical connections cda Chopin Fantasy, used as the base for I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, and Sarasate’s Gypsy Airs, reinvented as You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To. Among Dale’s accompanying musicians on these occasions are pianist Jeff Jenkins, bassists Mark Simon and Michael Moore, and drummer Paul Romaine. On Classical Connections, flautist Ali Ryerson is added and her skill on both concert flute and alto flute is wholly admirable.

Other fine examples of Dale Bruning’s playing released by Jazz Link Enterprises include Reunion (JLECD 440072) and Just Between Us (JLECD 0240). dalebruning-reunion cdOn these double CDs he is joined by fellow guitarist (and former pupil) Bill Frisell for richly evocative explorations of the great heritage of jazz guitar; and in the case of Just Between Us, exemplary bassist Michael Moore joins Dale and Bill. On Reunion are song book classics, like Body And Soul and All The Things You Are, and jazz standards, such as ’Round Midnight and Anthropology, all of them revitalized by these outstanding musicians; while on Just Between Us can be heard Whisper Not, Dancing in the Dark, Her Tender Countenance. Just Between Us CD cover Then there is Easy Does It! (JLECD 8711), on which Dale plays the music of a long-time friend, Charles Eakin. dalebruning-easy does it cdWith his quartet (Chiaraluce, Simon, Romaine), Dale explores elegant melodies with warmth, wit and understanding. This is an exceptional tribute to a fine composer and for some it will be an introduction to someone thus far overlooked.

Throughout all of the live performances and CDs presented by Dale Bruning and Jude Hibler can be heard seriously good music, played with skill, flair and imagination by fine musicians who with seemingly effortless ease convey their love for some of the best songs ever written. My reviews of some of the albums mentioned above can be seen in Jazz Journal.

Examples of the writing of Jude Hibler can be found through her website, which is where some of her excellent photographic work can also be seen.

Included on Dale Bruning’s website are details of his guitar music books, the third of which, Dale Bruning’s Jazz Guitar Series, Vol III: Phrasing & Scales, scheduled for publication late 2012 – early 2013.

Jazz CDs reviewed – late October 2012

October 25, 2012

Sara Serpa & Ran Blake

Many times during his long career, radical jazz pianist Ran Blake has teamed up with singers, notably Jeanne Lee. Importantly, he has often worked with young singers, still at the start of their careers and with many routes beckoning, often confusingly so. With Ran’s sophisticated guidance, the results have been very rewarding. An outstanding example of this musical relationship is his mentoring of Dominique Eade. (See review of Ran & Dominique’s Whirlpool in the mid-August 2012 post.)

Sara Serpa is another young singer working productively with the pianist. Sara’s debut album came in 2008 and she also recorded with Ran (Camera Obscura). This time, on Aurora (Clean Feed CF264CD), the pair explore a wide selection of material, offering intriguing, sometimes captivating, andAurora-cover always rewarding treatments of songs such as Margo Guryan’s Moonride, Charles B. Ward and John F. Palmer’s 19th century-favorite, The Band Played On, and there are two songs by R.B. Lynch, originally written for Abbey Lincoln, When Autumn Sings and Love Lament. Although Sara sings unaccompanied on the Abel Meeropol-Billie Holiday classic, Strange Fruit, the pervading influence of Ran’s iconoclastic approach to music is evident as she explores the shadowed musical byway of this haunting tale. The album closes with an evocative take on Last Night When We Were Young, a Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg gem, with motion picture origins. This last point is fitting, as much of the music heard on this album has connections with the world of films, especially those on the darker side of that vast array and reinforces the pianist’s ongoing admiration for film noir that has resulted in several albums and concerts through the years. Ran Blake’s contribution to the world of music, and to the New England Conservatory in particular was rewarded in October 2012 with the NEC’s Lifetime Achievement Award.


Danny Green

Based in San Diego, jazz pianist-composer Danny Green comfortably embraces Latin and classical touches, drawing them effortlessly into his jazz work. On his second album, A Thousand Ways Home (Tapestry 70018-2), danny-green coverhe presents music that is melodically engaging, sprightly, and filled with invention. He is joined here by saxophonist Tripp Sprague, bassist Justin Grinnell and drummer Julien Cantelm, as well as guests mandolinist Eva Scow, guitarists Peter Sprague, Chico Pinehiro and Dusty Brough, and singer Claudia Villela.On several tracks, Danny displays his particular affection for the music of Brazil, notably on Quintal Da Solidão. Throughout this very pleasing set, it is plain to hear that Danny is a virtuoso pianist, yet he keeps this aspect of his talent tightly wrapped, thus providing strong undercurrents that add immeasurably to the experience of hearing him play.


Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo

Among the most consistent of contemporary creative musicians are trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and percussionist Louis Moholo-Moholo. Given their prominence in this particular jazz arena, it is surprising that this is their first collaboration on record. ancestors coverOn this collection of duets, both men vividly display the reasons why they are held in such high regard. On Ancestors (TUM CD 029), their playing is inventive, imaginative and inspirational; the manner in which they play off one another is at times breathtaking in its audacity. These are musicians of the highest caliber and the Finnish record company is to be congratulated on bringing together these leading figures of the American and African improvised music scenes.


Kalle Kalima & K-18

A key figure in the European improvised music scene, electric guitarist Kalle Kalima has a deep and abiding affection for movies, especially those with edginess. out to lynch coverHere, on Out To Lynch (TUM CD 030), Kalima has chosen to mine ground first explored by writers of scores for films of David Lynch.  This director’s films are sometimes disturbing, always thought-provoking, and Kalima’s aural reflections of them are similarly multi-faceted. The leader’s key collaborator here is saxophonist-flautist Mikko Innanen, the pair being ably supported by quarter-tone accordionist Veli Kujala and bassist Teppo Hauta-aho. Not only do these musicians spark ideas from one another, they also create musical tapestries that prompt the listener to see the films again, preferably with this music echoing in the background.


If you want to know more about any of these albums, take a look at the websites of the artists or the record companies.

If you want to buy any of them, Amazon is a good place to look. 


Connie Evingson – Sweet Happy Life

October 18, 2012

Albums by jazz singer Connie Evingson are always things of beauty, and that most certainly can be said of her latest, Sweet Happy Life, released in October 2012.

Before considering this new CD, however, a quick glance at her work in the past decade immediately reveals how wide she casts the net of her repertoire.

On her 2003 CD, Let It Be Jazz (Summit DCD 1021), Connie turns to the music of Lennon & McCartney with delightful and often unexpected results. let it be jazz coverFew of the thirteen songs hereon are overly familiar and on these, as on the handful of Beatles’ hits that are included, she approaches the material with wit and ingenuity. The following year, Connie teamed up with three different Django Reinhardt-style bands, the Clearwater Hot Club, the Parisota Hot Club and Pearl Django. gypsy in my soul coverOn Gypsy In My Soul (Minnehaha MM 2006) the music is vibrant and colorful and Connie and the instrumentalists revel in the free, open swing that admirably reflects the gypsy legend. Mostly the songs are standards, although a couple of Reinhardt’s own compositions are included, Nuages and Anouman (Django’s Premonition), the latter having a new lyric by Connie herself. (This CD also appears on my Post entitled Django’s Legacy.)

little did i dream coverOn Little Did I Dream (Minnehaha MM 2008), Connie and pianist-composer-singer Dave Frishberg blend in a magical musical tour through Dave’s idiosyncratic songbook. Wit, wry humor, intelligence all feature in the nuanced lyrics that are Dave’s forte. Although he sings only once on this collaboration, Dave is the composer of all 14 songs and the lyricist for 8 of them; adding immeasurably to the mix, he plays piano throughout.


Now to that new release, Sweet Happy Life (Minnehaha MM 2009). connie cover

For years, singers have enjoyed exploring the work of individual songwriters and Song Book albums abound. It is especially delightful that in this instance, Connie has chosen to honor the work of a lyricist whose name might not immediately come to mind, yet whose words are known to millions. Norman Gimbel’s lyrics are emotional journeys into love and longing, tales of happiness lost and found, poems of heartbreak and joy. Among his most famous are English-language lyrics for songs that first appeared in Brazil and France, notably Agua De Beber, Samba De Orfeu (Sweet Happy Life), The Girl From Ipanema, Watch What Happens, Bluesette, I Will Wait For You. As these titles demonstrate, among the composers with whom Norman has worked are Antônio Carlos Jobim, Michel Legrand, Toots Thielemans, and Haroldo Lobo. With composer-credits such as these, it is not at all surprising that subtle Latin rhythms permeate this album, evoking visual images that are enhanced by glowing performances.

Ably abetted by fine instrumentalists, including Danny Embrey, who is also responsible for most of the charts, Laura Caviani, Joan Griffith, Randy Sabien, and Phil Aaron, Connie delivers exquisite interpretations of these songs that must rank with the best of the past and set markers for the future. Given their source, some of the songs have an infectious rhythmic undertow; while others are filled with languorous longing. Here you will find the familiar, one of the songs, Killing Me Softly With His Love, was a huge 1973 hit for Roberta Flack, rubbing congenial shoulders with the unusual, Adventure, is a previously unrecorded lyric to Jobim’s ballad Olha Maria. This was an instrumental from the movie The Adventurers and reflects Norman’s long involvement with films and television. Others from this source that Connie has chosen are I Will Wait for You and Watch What Happens, Michel Legrand songs from The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg. There is also an extended version of Canadian Sunset that swings mightily throughout. This was composed by jazz pianist Eddie Heywood whose 1956 recording was a hit, as was a version recorded later in the same year by Andy Williams, this time with Norman’s lyric. Here, the rhythm section of Tanner Taylor, Gordon Johnson and Joe Pulice set up a swinging foundation that recognizes the jazz origins and provides a base for Connie to develop her ideal vocal line and for Dave Karr’s driving tenor saxophone solo. Connie’s comment on this track bear repeating: “This track is relatively long but the band was swinging so hard, I didn’t have the heart to shorten it!”

Just as she does on all her albums, on Sweet Happy Life Connie Evingson vividly demonstrates that she is a highly accomplished jazz singer. Her voice is expressive and lean, she swings gracefully, and she is always a joy to hear. If you have yet to hear this outstanding singer then you have a real treat in store, whichever you choose to hear first. But be warned, you’ll find it hard to stop with only one.

As always, Amazon is a good place to look; as is Connie Evingson‘s own site.


Betty Bennett & Mundell Lowe

October 10, 2012

Swinging majestically past their 90th birthdays, jazz singer Betty Bennett and jazz guitarist Mundell Lowe are glowing examples to us all – inside or outside the music business. Although Betty has not sung publicly for a little while, she still keeps busy and takes a special interest in the career of her husband who has an engagement book as full as he wants it to be and in recent years, Mundy has played not only in the USA but also on tour in Europe. As his performances vividly demonstrate, neither his dexterity nor his invention show any signs of diminishing.

In case you have yet to encounter Betty and Mundy, here is a little background information:


The lady who sang with the band …

Betty Bennett was born 23 October 1921 in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a child, she hoped to become an opera singer, studying voice and piano. Her direction was changed when, by way of records, her mother introduced her to the music of Duke Ellington and Count Basie. Loving what she heard of these jazz musicians, Betty quickly became proficient in jazz singing, displaying a natural talent for the form. While still very young, she joined Georgie Auld’s band and then in quick succession spent time in the late swing era big bands led by Claude Thornhill, Alvino Rey, and Charlie Ventura and she was also briefly with Stan Kenton and Woody Herman. The Ventura band bore the promo tag ‘Bop for the People’ and Betty’s contemporary vocal styling was a perfect fit. More than her contemporaries, Betty bridged swing and bop. Apart from airshots, Betty’s recording career got underway with 1949-1951 sessions by the Ventura band, including performances of Yankee Clipper, Too Marvelous For Words and I Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind. Betty’s experiences in these years are entertainingly recounted in her autobiography, The Ladies Who Sing With The Band, which was published by Scarecrow Press in 2000.

Betty recorded her first own-name album for Trend in 1953, the songs including Nobody’s Heart, Time After Time and You’re Nearer. Two years later, she recorded for Atlantic Records accompanied by a band led by André Previn, whom she had married in 1952. In the band for Nobody Else But Me were Shorty Rogers, who with Previn also wrote the charts, Frank Rosolino, Bob Cooper, Jimmy Giuffre, Barney Kessell and Shelly Manne. Similarly star-studded were the trio and quartet Previn fronted for a 1959 United Artists date, the aptly titled I Love To Sing, on which are Conte Candoli, Red Mitchell, and Irv Cottler.

In addition to jazz club dates, Betty had begun appearing on the jazz festival circuit and in 1975 she celebrated a new personal relationship when she and Mundell Lowe were married at a ceremony held at the Monterey Jazz Festival.


A man for all sessions …

Mundell Lowe’s career had begun way back in 1935. He was born 21 April 1922, in Laurel, Mississippi and began playing guitar at the age of six. At age thirteen he set out for New Orleans where he haunted clubs before his Baptist minister father found him and hauled him back home. Determined on a career in music, he was soon in Nashville where he played in Pee Wee King’s band. Briefly in Jan Savitt’s band, military service intervened but, fortuitously, he landed in a camp near New Orleans and soon encountered John Hammond Jnr. After the war, Mundy and Hammond met up again and the entrepreneur introduced him to Ray McKinley, now leader of the Glenn Miller band, all of this helping open doors. The second half of the 1940s and on through the 1950s saw Mundy playing guitar in clubs and on record dates with an astonishing array of late swing era notables and many rising stars of early bop. These musicians include Buck Clayton, Miles Davis, Benny Goodman, Wardell Gray, Billie Holiday, Fats Navarro, Red Norvo, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Lester Young.

During the 1950s, Mundy played regularly in the NBC television studio orchestra and he was also musical director on the Today show. Aside from music, he also acted on and off Broadway, but music remained the main thrust of his life and he played and often recorded with musicians such as Georgie Auld, Ruby Braff, Mel Powell, Tony Scott, Ben Webster, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, and Joe Venuti.

Mundell Lowe cd

Among numerous own-name releases is 1957’s A Grand Night For Swinging, released on OJC, on which his collaborators are Gene Quill, Billy Taylor, Les Grinage, and Ed Thigpen; while on a 1990 trio date, Telarc’s Old Friends, he linked up with André Previn and Ray Brown. Over the years, Mundy also backed many singers on record dates, among them LaVern Baker, Tony Bennett, Connee Boswell, Ruth Brown, Chris Connor, Sammy Davis Jnr., Carmen McRae, Helen Merrill, Lee Wiley. Mundy continued to work in television and radio after his 1965 move to Los Angeles, a time when he was recognized as a writer of scores for films and television and also as an exponent of 12-tone music.

Two minds in harmony …

The marriage of Betty Bennett and Mundell Lowe at Monterey in 1975 was also a joining of musical minds as is apparent from the 1990 Fresh Sound recording session that resulted in The Song Is You. Here, accompanied by Bob Cooper, George Cables, Monty Budwig, and Roy McCurdy, the couple perform fine interpretations of songs such as You Must Believe In Spring, No More Blues, I Thought About You and The Eagle And Me.

Separately and together, over the years Betty Bennett and Mundell Lowe have made significant contributions to jazz that are always lithely swinging. Betty’s singing, lyrically profound and musically adventurous, and Mundy’s elegant and deceptively sparse exploration of the often overlooked subtleties of many compositions, have allowed them to create memorable interpretations of standards from the repertoire of both jazz and popular song.

Betty’s extensive collection of photographs and other memorabilia is now with Rutgers University’s Institute of Jazz Studies, although some photos can be seen on Marc Myers’ JazzWax website.

As for Mundy, his own website is where you can find details of this indefatigable jazz musician’s forthcoming gigs.


Jazz CDs reviewed – early October 2012

October 6, 2012

Dan Block Duality (Miles High MHR 8620)

A multi-talented jazz musician, Dan Block is in demand as sideman, orchestral player and arranger. On From His World To Mine (Miles High MHR 8612), he presents the music of Duke Ellington, choosing interesting and effective examples from Ellington’s huge contribution to 20th century music. Dan stays away from the familiar and instead plays his own arrangements of pieces many of which are Ellington’s lesser-known works. This CD therefore serves a dual purpose, that of presenting Dan as both soloist and arranger and in making the listener aware of how wide was Ellington’s (and Billy Strayhorn’s) mastery of music. Playing principally clarinet and tenor saxophone, Dan is ably aided by a fine accompanying group: Mike Kanan, James Chirillo, Lee Hudson, Brian Grice, Mark Sherman, Renato Thoms and Pat O’Leary.

On a recent album, Duality (Miles High MHR 8620), Dan takes a bold step in teaming himself with other leading lights of contemporary mainstream jazz in a set of mainly duets. His partners here are pianists Ted Rosenthal, a lovely Long Ago And Far Away, and Rosanno Sportiello, bass player Lee Hudson, guitarists Paul Myers, Saul Rubin and Matt Munisteri, vibraphone player Mark Sherman, taking a new look at Bix Beiderbecke’s In The Dark, and singer Catherine Russell on an unusual and highly effective take on Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now. There are two trio tracks, on one, the Ellington-Jimmy Blanton classic, Pitter Panther Patter, Dan is joined by fellow reed player Scott Robinson and Ted Rosenthal, on the other by drummer Tim Horner and Lee Hudson. In these duets, Dan plays clarinet, bass clarinet, and tenor and baritone saxophones.

Throughout these two exceptional sets, Dan Block vividly demonstrates his deep understanding of and love for all that has happened in jazz over the decades while remaining completely in touch with the style and taste of today.

Dan Block cover






Graham Dechter Takin’ It There (Capri 74117-2)

For his second album as leader, jazz guitarist Graham Dechter is again joined by his fellow rhythm section collaborators from the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra: pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton. Individually, these are all superb musicians and their solo skills are in evidence throughout this outstanding set. Collectively, their experience of playing together at the CHJO rhythm section is vividly apparent. Graham’s choice of music reveals the respect he has for jazz guitarists of an earlier jazz age with selections from the pen or book of Wes Montgomery and Barney Kessell, while other jazzmen so recalled include Lee Morgan and George Coleman. Graham’s musical pedigree is notable: father, a composer, arranger, player in Hollywood; mother, singer; grandfather, music teacher, trombonist (with Stan Kenton). All of this background has been developed so that the guitarist brings to his interpretations a measure of confidence and maturity that far outweighs his years. This is an exceptional album, the ballad selections filled with depth and understanding, the up-tempo pieces overflowing with invention, and throughout these four masterly musicians never fail to swing.

graham dechter cd






Rich Halley 4 Back From Beyond (Pine Eagle 004)

Tenor saxophonist Rich Halley has the rare capacity to take elements from the post-bop jazz mainstream and color them with touches that hint at the exhilaration of early free jazz. Often performing his own compositions, Halley is regularly backed by bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Carson Halley. Their music retains hints of the jazz style of earlier years while never losing the feel of contemporary improvised music. Throughout his recordings, Halley displays imaginative ideas that he executes with considerable flair and polish. On this CD, Halley is teamed with trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, a like-minded colleague with whom he has recorded before. This is a set that is filled with imaginative and powerfully played jazz music that allies sensitivity with drama. The support from Reed and Carson Halley is astute and thoughtful, and they weave fluid, driving solos that are filled with fully realized ideas. This is exceptional music, extremely well played by all four of these fine jazz musicians.

Previous releases by Rich Halley on Pine Eagle Records are Live At The Penofin Jazz Festival (Pine Eagle 001), Children Of The Blue Supermarket (Pine Eagle 002) and Requiem For A Pit Viper (Pine Eagle 003).

Rich Halley CD cover






Stephanie Nakasian Show Me The Way To Get Out Of This World (Capri 74115-2)

More than just a jazz singer, Stephanie Nakasian is also a jazz singing teacher and her knowledge and understanding of the art is apparent in all that she does. On this CD, the latest of a dozen or so she has recorded in the past decade, Nakasian draws her repertoire from a wide range of sources, including the jazz world, classic pop, contemporary pop, and Latin. Deftly playing with time signatures, Nakasian brings unexpected variations on familiar themes, yet never strays far from the melodic magic that has made many of the songs timeless. These songs include Lucky So And So, Zanzibar, Nica’s Dream, So In Love, Ill Wind, You And The Night And The Music, Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most, The End Of A Love Affair and Lonesome Road. On this set, Nakasian’s subtle vocal charm is aided and abetted by Harris Simon, piano, Chris Brydge, bass, and Billy Williams, drums. The pianist is also a jazz music teacher at the College of William and Mary, which is where Nakasian also teaches. Their meeting there led to local gigs from which developed the idea for this wholly admirable album.

Stephanie Nakasian CD cover






Curtis Fuller  Down Home (Capri 74116-2)

During the past few years, jazz trombonist Curtis Fuller has made a small number of outstanding CDs. This late flowering as leader has added to his exceptional cv as a major jazz trombonist whose past accomplishments took him through spells with Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie. On recording dates, it is not only the playing of Curtis Fuller that is featured, but also his skill as a jazz composer. This new release teams Fuller with his regular band, which is now in its seventh year: trumpeter Al Hood, tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman, pianist Chip Stephens, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Todd Reid. Most of the music here is written and/or arranged by band members and is finely crafted to allow the musicians to display their collective skills as well as their ability to play imaginative, glowing solos. This excellent album will appeal to all who love jazz in the post-bop mainstream. Similarly filled with exceptional music is 2010’s I Will Tell Her (Capri 74100-2), which is also by Curtis Fuller and what he regards as ‘his band of choice’.

Curtis Fuller CD cover






Maria Neckam Unison (Sunnyside SSC 1321)

Among the many jazz singers around today is Austrian-born Maria Neckam. Her crystalline vocal sound brings subtle appeal to a selection of her own songs that owe their intellectual origins to a wide range of sources. Included among the source material is a Rainer Maria Rilke poem, Solitude, and a poem by Persian mystic Hafez, Where Do You Think You Will Be?. Starting out in Vienna, Neckam’s musical education included spells at Amsterdam Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music in New York. Stylistically, this educational process has taken Neckam through opera and rock, musical theatre and pop, music of the Far East and contemporary improv. Echoes of all these influences can be heard in Neckam’s songs – blending here, contrasting there – to provide a rich and always interesting vocal palette. Neckam’s collaborators on this CD include Aaron Parks, keyboards, Thomas Morgan, bass, and Colin Stranahan, drums, with featured horn players Lars Dietrich, alto saxophone, and Samir Zarif, tenor saxophone. There are also guest appearances by Nir Felder, guitar, Will Vinson, alto saxophone, Kenny Warren, trumpet, Mariel Roberts, cello, and Glenn Zaleski, piano.

Maria Neckam CD cover






Ithamara Koorax Got To Be Real (Irma Records IRM 922 CD)

Although most of Ithamara Koorax’s work cleaves closely to her Brazilian roots, she has a good ear for jazz and from time to time hints of this appear on CDs such as Ithamara Koorax Sings The Luiz Bonfá Songbook (King), Love Dance: The Ballad Collection (Som Livre) and Brazilian Butterfly (Irma). There are many attractions on these CDs and her interpretations of a largely non-jazz repertoire are elegant and eloquent. Ithamara is very much in a jazz mood on Serenade In Blue (Milestone) and Autumn In New York (Huks Music). On the former, she moves confidently towards the jazz genre, which is fully and successfully embraced with the latter where she swings elegantly through an always interesting set of mainly standards, backed by a tight-knit trio. Ithamara Koorax in NY CD coverThese sensitive interpretations of lyrics and inventive improvisations combine to make this a CD deserving of the high praise it has received. With Obrigado: Dom Um Romao (TCB), Ithamara memorably reflects upon a planned European tour on which she was to have worked with Dom Um Romao and the Peter Schärli Trio. Romao’s death intervened and it was decided to go ahead with the tour but that no attempt would be made to replace his remarkable talent. It was during this tour that the music on this CD was recorded by Swiss radio, and the result is some exceptionally fine playing and singing. Peter is an inventive trumpet player with a softly burning tone, and Ithamara’s singing leans slightly towards the mainstream that she embraced so well on Autumn In New York.

Ithamara and Peter are reunited for a delightful selection of songs on O Grande Amor (TCB), a 2010 session of mainly Brazilian songs intriguingly colored with subtle jazz improvisations from the trio that underline and uplift the singer’s effortless styling, the fiery core of Peter’s trumpet playing contrasting vividly with Ithamara’s glowing vocal sound. Ithamara Koorax CD coverOn 2012’s Got To Be Real (Irma), Ithamara is once again centered on Brazilian music, but with a repertoire that includes a few standards albeit colored with subtle overtones drawn from her musical heritage. In whatever mood, Ithamara Koorax is a singer to savor.



Reviews of some of these CDs are among the hundreds appearing in Jazz Journal, a monthly magazine that also features articles about international jazz musicians past and present.

You can learn more about any of these albums at the artist’s or the record company’s website.

If you want to buy them, go to Amazon.


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