November 25, 2015
Perhaps it has become a cliché, but over the years many of the masters of jazz have maintained that their music should tell a story. This is especially relevant with the first two albums here, those by Ernie Krivda and Aaron Irwin, because they are tied closely to storytelling and make strong connections with historic events and tales of fiction.
Ernie Krivda Requiem For A Jazz Lady (Capri 74140-2)
Hailing from Cleveland, tenor saxophonist Ernie Krivda has an international reputation yet has never lost a very strong connection with his hometown. This connection is manifested in this new album, which is inspired by places and people and events there in the past. The result is an engaging and always interesting selection of compositions Ernie has written, all of which are presented in a warm and powerful manner. Among these pieces of music is an engagingly funky blues entitled Great Lakes Gumbo, which combines elements of the many jazz styles of the mid-west cities that have Cleveland at their core. The Remarkable Mr Black is for Ernie’s late accompanist Claude Black. Taken at a brisk tempo, Ernie opens with a long improvisation and is followed by pianist Lafayette Carthon before a closing section where Ernie and drummer Renell Gonsalves trade ideas. A personal tribute is Little Face, a charming ballad on which Lafayette shines, that is for Ernie’s wife, Faye. A warm picture portraying Ernie’s present home in nearby Lakewood is Emerald, the key soloists here being Ernie and Lafayette and bassist Marion Hayden. Aside from the music, the liner notes for this release includes a fascinating account Ernie Krivda has written of Cleveland’s jazz world in that era and which itself paints vivid pictures that add immeasurably to the musical portraits.
Aaron Irwin A Room Forever (independent)
On this album, clarinetist Aaron Irwin’s inspiration for his compositions comes from the short stories of Breece Dexter John Pancake, a West Virginian writer whose death in 1979 at the age of 26 brought to an abrupt halt a career that would surely have been at the very least interesting and perhaps exceptional. He writes with a sharp eye for the sometimes grim hardscrabble lives of his fellow West Virginians and his spare style is admirably suited to the settings and the people. While bleak tales of difficult lives might appear to be unpromising as a source for musical inspiration, Aaron Irwin has found in them much that is rewarding. There is in the music an intriguing mix of pastoral openness and tight introspection as he draws upon varied musical genres to create themes over which he and his collaborators can lay their improvisations. Aaron is accompanied here by trombonist Matthew McDonald, guitarist Pete McCann, and bassist Thomas Kneeland, the unusual instrumental make-up of the quartet providing interesting and unusual voicings. Titled as are Pancake’s stories, the tracks include A Room Forever, a melody that Aaron develops over Pete McCann’s plaintive guitar and which mirrors a tale of hopeless lives; Hollow, which traces a dourly-told tale of hard work below ground and forgotten love above; and Trilobites, a piece that reflects the story of a young man’s disintegrating life in which he finds a measure of purpose only in the perpetuity of the distant past. At first glance, the doom and despair that fill Pancake’s stories might seem an unlikely source for music but such is Aaron Irwin’s skill as a composer that everything here is by no means mired in gloom.
Mike Holober Balancing Act (Palmetto PALM 22058)
In many ways, pianist Mike Holober’s compositions heard here also draw upon the American landscape but this is through the composer’s non-musical activities. Although deeply involved for many years as composer and performer and conductor, including spells with big bands in Germany, Mike is at heart an outdoorsman and this is displayed in his writing. On this album five of the eight tracks are his own compositions and include Grace At Sea, a gentle ballad with Mike’s piano setting the scene and cushioning Kate McGarry’s voice, Marvin Stamm’s flugelhorn and Mark Patterson’s trombone. Brian Blade’s subtle drums allied to Mike’s piano and John Hébert’s bass sets the mood for Canyon, a spare, open ballad that features Kate as well as Marvin’s trumpet and Dick Oatts on alto saxophone. Dick also plays soprano saxophone in this band and is heard on flute on When There Were Trains, which also features Kate with the the reflective lyric. On Book Of Sighs Mike’s piano and Kate’s voice open the pages and later Dick and Mark are heard in extended solos. Brian is featured on Idris, a crisp and fitting tribute to Idris Muhammed composed by Jason Rigby. Mike is a regular member of a quartet led by Jason who also plays clarinet, bass clarinet and tenor saxophone on this album, soloing well on Billy Joel’s Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel). An album of stories then, musical this time, but careful listeners will hear and understand what they are being told.
All these albums (and Breece D’J Pancake’s short stories) are available at Amazon.
November 18, 2015
Karrin Allyson Many A New Day (Motema 234083)
Over the past few years Karrin Allyson’s all-too-few albums have brought unalloyed pleasure. This, her latest, might well be her best. The material, while familiar, is far from overdone in the jazz world and this might be explained by the subtitle: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein. Although Richard Rodgers’ partnership with Lorenz Hart has long been a gold mine for jazz singers and instrumentalists, his later collaboration with Oscar Hammerstein Jr has been much less explored. Any real or imagined problems there might be with the material dissolve as Karrin sings these memorable melodies and often insightful words. The arrangements, by Michael Leonhart and Karrin, never lose the inherent melodic qualities of the songs, although they sometimes take these in surprising but always interesting and musically satisfactory directions. Karrin’s voice is true and quite lovely, revealing maturity, intelligence and charm. Her interpretation of lyrics is faultless and she reaches the heart of the songs with extraordinary sensitivity. This last quality means that even when some careful liberties are taken with tempi the obvious love she has for this material ensures that the result is always pleasing. Karrin’s accompanists here are pianist Kenny Barron and bassist John Patitucci and their work is perfectly attuned to the needs of the singer, Kenny having most solo opportunities, all of which he takes with his customary élan. Among the songs performed here are Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’, Bali Ha’i, We Kiss In The Shadow, Something Good (a song for which Rodgers also wrote the lyrics), Out Of My Dreams, and Something Wonderful. This is a beautifully performed album of lovely music that has already lasted a lifetime and with recordings like this might very well last forever.
Kim Nazarian Some Morning (KIMJ Music)
A delightful set by Kim Nazarian, here stepping out of the esteemed vocal group, New York Voices, but staying close to two other musical families. One of these is her personal family: husband Jay Ashby plays trombone on several tracks, among them Robbin’s Nest and What’ll I Do?, son Ian sings on Que Sera, Sera on which Kim’s father, Greg, plays saxophone, and brother-in-law Marty Ashby plays guitar on Robbin’s Nest, Tell Him I Said Hello and So In Love. Kim’s other family comprises the musicians joining her on this celebration of song. Invidious, I know, but only some are mentioned here: pianists Mark Soskin and Mark Shilansky, bassists Dwayne Dolphin and Leo Traversa, drummer Jamey Haddad, as well as guests who include clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera (Tell Him I Said Hello), trumpeter Sean Jones (Road To Kursk, a Jay Ashby chart on which drummer Roger Humphries is also featured), guitarist John Pizzarelli (Gotta Be This Or That on which he also sings), and vibraphonist Gary Burton (Some Morning). All of these instrumentalists are in cracking form, providing excellent accompaniment, driving ensembles and sparkling solos. Kim’s vocal sound, full, rich, wide ranging, always melodious, brings out every nuance in the compositions, while her interpretations of the lyrics are miniature masterclasses. A thoroughly enjoyable exploration of attractive material by an exceptional singer.
Lynda Reed Our Tree (indepenent)
A fine singer with a growing reputation on the east and west coasts, here Lynda Reed presents an admirable selection of songs, most of them only rarely heard. Lynda’s vocal style is softly engaging and her interpretation of lyrics shows care and understanding. Her principal accompanists are Frank Zottoli, keyboards, Abraham Laboriel, bass, Roberto Montero, guitar, and Enzo Todesco, drums, who are joined on some songs by Justo Almario (saxophones/flute), Rique Pantoja (keyboard), Dave Compton (harmonica), Edgar Sandavol (violin) and additional percussionists (Léo Costa, Munyungo Jackson, Joe Fabio, Abe Laboriel Jr). Among the songs are Loving You (composed by Montero, lyrics by Reed), Fiesta Lynda (Laboriel, Reed), Our Tree/Tronco Do Jequitibá (Montero, Reed), Remembering and Zoe’s Lullaby (both Zottoli, Reed), and Masterpiece (Thomas Bähler). There are also some more widely known songs: Another Star, Blackbird, In Walked Bud. From what is heard (and also written by Lynda in her accompanying notes) all of these songs have a considerable measure of meaning for her. This particular quality is apparent throughout the set as emotional depths revealed both by the lyrics and the limpid melodies and sensuous rhythms of Latin American music that underlie everything. Both singer and instrumentalists bring to the occasion an air of gentleness and love, ensuring that the listener, too, is drawn into the moment. Songs from this album can be found on YouTube.
These CDs can be found at the singers’ sites (click on the links shown above), and at Amazon among on-line stores.
November 6, 2015
Dancer in Red
Inspired by seeing a very young dancer performing alone in the street in the centre of Málaga city, Brenda Oldenburg painted this in oils on glass.
20 December 1947 – 8 November 2013