March 24, 2015
Rodrigo Lima Saga (JSR 6063/4)
Best known thus far as an accompanist, notably touring as a member of Ithamara Koorax’s band, this debut album by Rodrigo Lima is a real treat for lovers of the guitar and the music of Brazil. The musical styles heard here include choro, Novos Cariocas, samba, Canção Praieira, and bossa nova, Altinho, and much else that has become familiar to international audiences over the years. Although it is the guitar, mainly classical and also electric, that is prominent, Rodrigo is impressively joined by guest artists, among whom are Anat Cohen, saxophone, Hugo Fattoruso, keyboards, Hubert Laws, flute, Ithamara Koorax and Aline Morena, vocal, Mike Mainieri, vibraphone, Raul de Souza, trombone, Zé Eduardo Nazário, João Palma and Laudir de Oliveira, percussion, and Hermeto Pascoal, keyboards, while most of the arrangements are by Rodrigo and Arnaldo DeSouteiro. Mostly on this double album are heard original compositions by Rodrigo, and there are also some on which he collaborated with Pascoal, João Cavalcanti, Pedro Rocha and others, as well as a 20-minute jazz and Latin-tinged exploration of the 3rd Movement of Brahms’ 3rd Symphony. In contrast to the excellent instrumental combinations heard here there is a fine solo performance of A Velha Sozinha by Rodrigo on acoustic guitar. Throughout, the music is romantic, melodic, with flowing lines and always a joy to hear. Well known in South America, especially in Brazil, his homeland, Rodrigo Lima also plays extensively in Europe, especially in Spain. This release must surely expand his international audience.
Rachel Caswell All I Know (Turtle Ridge TRR-002)
Any singer choosing to present her art in the exposed setting of a duet needs to be good at what she does and Rachel Caswell certainly is that. It takes confidence, too, appearing in this setting and again Rachel has that confidence. The result is an excellent album, mainly of standards, that acts as a showcase for a singer who must surely and quickly build an international following. On seven of the twelve tracks, Rachel is accompanied by guitarist Dave Stryker, while on the other five she is in company with bassist Jeremy Allen. Throughout this set, Rachel delivers subtle jazz improvisations that enhance the original songs and remain always respectful of the intentions of the composers. Her vocal sound is graceful with a sinewy hint that adds immeasurably to her interpretations. Among the songs are If I Should Lose You, One For My Baby, Agua de Beber, I Fall In Love Too Easily and Feelin’ Groovy. This set should appeal to jazz and popular song audiences alike. Its appeal to fellow jazz singers will be clear from what Sheila Jordan has said of her: “Rachel is a wonderful singer with a deep feeling and a fantastic improvisational talent complemented by a lovely rich sound.”
For more information on Rachel Caswell, see Jim Eigo‘s website.
Mavis Rivers Mavis and Swing Along With Mavis (Warners 8122795 8480 and 7385)
The name of Mavis Rivers comes up only rarely when talking or reading about jazz singers and that’s a pity because she was exceptionally good. I recall reviewing some of her albums many years ago and also playing tracks on my long-gone radio show but I confess to having forgotten all about her. Mavis’s name has come to mind now with the review in March’s Jazz Journal of two reissued albums. Among the best of her recorded work, they are a very good introduction to her, especially as they come in Warner’s low-cost reissues from Japan. Only 62 when she died, Mavis packed a great deal of music into her life and fortunately for us she left a substantial recorded legacy that vividly demonstrates not only her vocal skills but also her ability to present her talent in a rich variety of settings. She was born Mavis Chloe Rivers into a large and musically-inclined family on 19 May 1929 in Apia, Western Samoa. With the outbreak of World War II the family moved to the American part of Samoa where, backed by a band led by her father, Moody Charles Rivers, she entertained American servicemen. After the war, the family moved to Auckland, New Zealand, and by 1948 she was singing on radio and the following year began her recording career. Some of her recordings from this period can be heard on The TANZA, Stebbing and Zodiac Years on Ode Records. Not surprisingly, most of the music Mavis recorded at this time reflected her Polynesian background, but her vocal skill and her admirable sound are already very much in evidence.
In 1953 Mavis came to the USA on a scholarship to study music at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah (her family were Mormons). She came back to the USA in 1955, this time to Los Angeles, where she found work singing in clubs at night (a secretarial day job was necessary), including playing with a Hawaiian band. The bass player in this band was Glicerio Reyes Catingub (known as David), with whom she formed a musical and personal relationship and they were married on 4 October 1955. After a brief spell out of music when her two sons, Matthew and Reynaldo, were born, Mavis resumed working, playing clubs in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. As the 1950s rolled over into the 1960s, Mavis was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist and also recorded extensively, first for Capitol Records and then for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label. Two of the Reprise albums are those reissued on Warners and reviewed by Brian Robinson in Jazz Journal. Giving 4 and 5 stars respectively to Mavis and Swing Along With Mavis, the reviewer points out that both benefit from very good charts and backing, the first with Marty Paich, the second with Van Alexander, with the former band including a host of leading jazzmen. These sessions come from 1961 and there was another very good Reprise recording date that year, Mavis Meets Shorty, this one teaming Mavis with Shorty Rogers, on trumpet and fluegelhorn, with charts by Chuck Sagle. All three of these Reprise albums are together on a 2014 Fresh Sound double album. In 1964 Mavis made another excellent album, this time with Red Norvo, with whom she often appeared live; this was for the Vee-Jay label, We Remember Mildred Bailey. Mavis not only worked with Norvo, but also with George Shearing and André Previn; that she regularly kept company with musicians of this caliber speaks volumes for her own skills and how other musicians regarded her.
Just as Mavis had come from a musical family, so her own family continued the tradition with her alto saxophonist and bandleader son Matt Catingub becoming a respected figure on the Los Angeles studio and jazz scenes. Apart from regularly playing together in California, in the early 1980s mother and son appeared in Auckland, New Zealand, at a Royal Variety Performance for Queen Elizabeth. Mavis and Matt also recorded together on his Sea Breeze albums My Mommy And Me and Hi-Tech Big Band. The 1980s also brought a new album under her own name, It’s A Good Day, for Delos. Mavis continued to work through the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s, including appearing on another of Matt Catingub’s recording sessions, this one also for Sea Breeze, I’m Getting Cement All Over Ewe. They continued playing live dates together and it was at one of these, at the Vine Street Bar and Grill on 29 May 1992, that she suffered a stroke. Rushed to Queen of Angels-Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, she died. Following her death, her son reported that only days earlier they had been speaking of fellow singer Sylvia Syms who died after performing and Mavis had said that this was a “great way for a singer to go,” adding “I’d like to go the same way.”
Thanks to references to her by Marc Myers on his JazzWax website in January 2012, and to the re-release in 2015 of some of her albums, the name of Mavis Rivers lives on. Still not nearly as prominent in the minds of lovers of jazz singing as should be the case, now there is no excuse for not listening to and admiring the work of this exceptional jazz artist.
To buy any of the CDs mentioned here you can as usual go to Amazon.
March 10, 2015
Joan Chamorro La Màgia De La Veu (CODA/Jazz To Jazz JJ014008)
Four or five years ago, a friend alerted me to the astonishingly talented Andrea Motis. I was impressed then, and I am even more impressed now with this new album. This came to me for review in Jazz Journal and since then I have returned again and again and enjoy it more and more every time I hear it. On this set, Andrea’s fine trumpet playing is complemented by her engaging singing. But there is even more than this, because also featured on this CD are three other young singing-instrumentalists all of whom, like Andrea, come from the Catalan region of Spain and have emerged thanks in large part to Joan Chamorro and the youth program that has produced these and many other young artists who play in the Sant Andreu Jazz Band. In the course of the past few years, Joan, who is himself a multi-instrumentalist of note, playing tenor and baritone saxophones as well as double bass, has released albums not only by the SAJB but also by each of the four singers who appear here: trumpeter Andrea Motis, trombonist Rita Payés, alto saxophonist Eva Fernández, and bassist Magalí Ditzira.
All four of these teenagers are gifted instrumentalists but on the new release their chosen repertoire pays tribute to singers who have inspired their vocal aspirations: Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald. But there is no slavish copying, instead these singers bring to songs including, Lady Sings The Blues, Mad About The Boy, East Of The Sun, Stars Fell On Alabama, Poor Butterfly, and How High The Moon, their own always interesting conceptions and all phrase ideally while interpreting the lyrics in delightfully-accented English (except Desafinado). These exceptional young musicians are backed by the fine rhythm section of pianist-organist Ignasi Terraz, guitarist Josep Taver, and drummer Esteve Pi. It is good to know that musicians like Andrea, Rita, Eva and Magalí are around and will carry the torch of jazz playing and singing on well into the mid-twenty-first century.
Oh, and by the way, there’s a film about Joan Chamorro and the SAJB: Kids and Music.
Steve Cromity All My Tomorrows (Cromcake Records)
Some very attractive readings of romantic songs presented here with respect and understanding by Steve Cromity, whose vocal sound, mature and confident, is always pleasing. Steve is backed on this, his second album, by the rhythm team of pianist Marcus Persiani, bassist Eric Lemon and drummer Darrell Green. Also present, and bringing a strong jazz feel to the proceedings are three guest horns: trumpeter Kenyetta Beasley (on five tracks), tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt, and tenor saxophonist Patience Higgins (three tracks as well as one appearance each on soprano saxophone and flute). Among the familiar yet fresh sounding songs are Old Devil Moon, How Little We Know, Without A Song, and When Lights Are Low; less familiar but of similar quality are I Was Telling Her, My Little Boat, Duke Pearson and Oscar Brown Jr’s Jeannine, and Sugar, by Stanley Turrentine and Jon Hendricks. My loss, I know, but this is the first time I have encountered Steve; given the present-day market for the nostalgia implicit in much of his material he deserves to be much more widely heard.
For more on Steve go to Jim Eigo’s site.
Chris McNulty Eternal (Palmetto PM 2176)
This return to recording after a brief spell away is not only a delight to hear, it might also be the best thing that Chris McNulty has done. Back in 2011, Chris’s son, Sam McNulty (a.k.a. hip-hop artist/songwriter Chap One) died suddenly. While I would not normally venture to touch upon a tragic personal loss such as this, I do so here because there is a connection with this new album. The spirit of Sam is much in evidence in Chris’s choice of material, and is also audible in the often deeply moving interpretations of these songs. Among the songs selected are many that are familiar but Chris’s interpretations of the lyrics, her choice of tempos, and the subtle cushioning of her accompanying musicians all contribute toward making the listener hear these songs anew. The songs include A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing, Star Dust, Nature Boy, Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life and Where Is Love. Two unfamiliar songs are Chris’s own You Are There and The Saga Of Harrison Crabfeathers by Steve Kuhn and Sherrill Craig. Despite its unpromising title, this last-named song has a striking lyric that relates closely to the feelings of anyone who has lost a loved one, especially in unexpected circumstances. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Chris’s rendition is deeply moving and her rich and full vocal sound is admirably suited for all that does here. The principal accompanists are pianist-arranger John Di Martino, bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, while Steve Newcomb arranged and orchestrated for a small string and woodwind group.
For more information on Chris see either her website or contact Braithwaite & Katz ([email protected]).
To buy any of these albums, go to your favorite on-line supplier, among which is, of course, Amazon.