Jazz CD Reviews – late February 2016

February 28, 2016

The Great American Music Ensemble It’s All In The Game (Jazzed Media JM 1073)

Back in the 1980s this 15-piece big band came into being through the inspiration and dedication of its musical director, composer and arranger Doug Richards. Originally, G.A.M.E. was centered on the Jazz Studies program at Virginia Commonwealth University and drew instrumentalists from both faculty members and the student body. During the following decades, the band performed to critical acclaim but although this album was recorded in 2001 it has been sitting on a shelf gathering dust until now because major companies were unwilling to take it in hand, thus revealing a (perhaps unsurprising) lack of imagination. Certainly there is no absence of quality as from the first notes of the opening track, In The Mood, it is clear that this a band of highly skilled instrumentalists. In the opener they are playing a chart by someone unafraid to dismantle and reconstruct for the modern era a piece of music that has had a place at the heart of big band jazz for going on eight decades. As the album progresses, Doug’s arranging skill is vividly apparent as he remakes mostly familiar music into sparkling new works.GAME

Featured soloists from within the band include trumpeters John D’earth and Bob Ransom, trombonist Jim McFalls, and saxophonists Marty Nau, Skip Gailes, Rob Holmes and John Winn. There are still more outstanding solos thanks to the presence of guest trumpeter Jon Faddis, on Stardust and West End Blues, and violinist Joe Kennedy Jr., who is also on West End Blues as well as When It’s Sleepy Time Down South. Throughout, the soloists and the crisp brass and reed sections are supported by the rhythm section of pianist Weldon Hill, bassist Victor Dvoskin and drummer Howard Curtis, all of whom also have solo moments although their main role here is to punch the band along, a task they accomplish with distinction. And if all this were not enough, the remarkable René Marie sings on six tracks, bringing her special talent to Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man Of Mine, Clap Yo’ Hands, I’ve Got The World On A String, I Am Loved, They All Laughed, and Ain’t Misbehavin’. This was not long after René re-entered the world of music and while she would not often be heard singing with a big band, her performance here show her to every bit as good as in any other setting. Summing up this album can be done with one word: Outstanding.

Ken Peplowski Enrapture (Capri 74141-2)

Virtuoso clarinetist Ken Peplowski has a worldwide reputation, playing mainstream jazz with imaginative flair and consummate skill. Joining Ken on this session are pianist Ehud Asherie, bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson, each providing individual solo skills and collectively forming a sparkling ensemble. The music chosen for this album is attractively varied and is far from the usual for jazz dates.ken pep Opening with a Caribbean-tinged version of Duke Ellington’s Flaming Sword, the quartet’s repertoire then explores other jazz pieces, Herbie Nichols’ Enrapture, Fats Waller’s Willow Tree and Peter Erskine’s Twelve, and also film music, including Scene D’Amour from Vertigo and Cheer Up, Charlie from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There are some less familiar pop songs, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Oh, My Love and Barry Manilow and Johnny Mercer’s When October Goes, as well as a sumptuous reading of Noël Coward’s I’ll Follow My Secret Heart. In the hands of these gifted musicians all of these pieces become jazz works yet such is their skill that echoes of the romanticism, charm and wit of the music’s origins remain. Wholly admirable and very warmly recommended to all who love music with heart and soul.

Bruce Torff Down The Line (Summit DCD 672)

This album by pianist and composer Bruce Torff touches upon the loss of friends and associates and while it has moments of appropriate solemnity it is far from being sad and gloomy. All the music heard here is composed by Bruce, the moving Memoriam being written following the death of a friend from childhood and seeks and finds joy in these memories. Yes, there are moments of reflection, such as Wave Of Silence, but there is also liveliness and wit, Down The Line, Tribal Function, and (despite its title) Well Of Tears. For this album, Bruce is joined by guitarist Pete McCann, drummer Ben Wittman, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm (playing soprano saxophone on one track).torff Also present on this session is trumpeter Lew Soloff who plays on two tracks, This I Promise You and Early Sunday, both fine examples of his work, exploring as they do depths of mature and sincere emotion. That emotional content is enhanced immeasurably by the knowledge that just two weeks after his appearance was recorded Lew Soloff died. Attractive music in the contemporary mainstream of jazz.

Socrates Garcia Back Home (Mama MAA1050)

Connections with Latin music go back to the earliest years of jazz (Jelly Roll Morton’s ‛Latin tinge’ comes readily to mind) and there have long been big band links. Among these have been Frank Grillo, Maria Bauza, Tito Puente and Dizzy Gillespie. A significant figure today is Socrates Garcia, who was born in the Dominican Republic, which is where he first played guitar but was diverted into an engineering career.garcia Fortunately, that did not last and he decided that music was to be his life. While playing rock and pop, he also studied extensively in America, including spells at the Grove School, Luther College, and universities in Tennessee and Colorado. These studies ranged widely, incorporating classical music but also generating an interest in big band jazz. On this album, Socrates presents his Latin Jazz Orchestra playing his own compositions, which includes his Dominican Suite. The musicians here come from America (recorded at University of Northern Carolina where Socrates is Director of Music Technology) and from the Dominican Republic (recorded at MIDILAB studies, where he had worked as an engineer). All the music on this fine set is exhilarating and played with verve by the band ably demonstrating that big band Latin jazz is alive and well.

For more information on The G.A.M.E. and Bruce Torff and Socrates Garcia check Mouthpiece Music and for Ken Peplowski Capri Records.

Amazon is the place to go for these albums.

You will find much more to entertain and inform you on these sites:-

Vintage BandstandJazz FlashesJazz WaxFrank GriffithJohn Robert Brown.

Jazz CD Reviews – mid-February 2016

February 15, 2016

Among guidelines offered to critics is the suggestion that they should not allow themselves to be affected by what they know but only what they see or read – or in the case of music – what they hear. Although there is something to be said for this, I’m not at all sure that this is a suggestion that should always be followed. Applying this might account for the fact that so many of those who write on jazz are somewhat dismissive of Billie Holiday’s final recordings. For me, the bone-deep weariness and drained emotions she exudes add immeasurably to her performance while knowing what she had undergone in the years before and how little time she had left add even more texture to her reading of the songs. These thoughts have been prompted by the two albums reviewed here. While not at the same level as Billie Holiday (and I am sure that they would never claim otherwise), these two singers have also undergone hard times brought on by serious illness but fought hard to sing their songs and in so doing produced very good and deeply moving albums.

Laura Perlman Precious Moments (Miles High MHR 8625)

Coming late to performing as a jazz singer, Laura Perlman first had a successful career working as a music editor in the motion picture business in Hollywood. That said, from early childhood she loved jazz and would sing along with records by artists such as Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.perlman It was not just singers she admired but also instrumentalists, including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. In 2002 grave illness caused her to reassess the direction in which she was traveling and she slowly recovered she decided to turn at last to her first love, jazz singing. This was far from easy because further problems arose, presenting her with even more serious health issues to surmount. By the time that she recorded Precious Moments Laura had faced and conquered these personal struggles, any one of which might well have floored most of us. The songs Laura has chosen are all standards and she looks into the heart of each song, interpreting the lyric with care and affection. Among these songs are I’ve Never Been In Love Before, But Beautiful, You Go To My Head, Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye, I’m Old Fashioned and My One And Only Love. Laura’s voice is warm and strong and is a delight to hear. Laura’s accompanists here are Bill Cunliffe, piano, Mark Sherman, vibraphone, Chris Colangelo, bass, and Joe LaBarbera, drums, and all have solo moments and are subtly supportive throughout. Two of the tracks are arranged by Bill, the other eight by Mark. All the emotions stirred by hearing these songs will be redoubled after reading the liner notes in which Laura and Mark reflect on her life before Precious Moments and in particular her personal battles in the past dozen years. Surely, Laura Perlman will bring us many more good albums in the future.

Jane Harvey Sings Ellington – One To One (Little Jazz Bird 1006)

This album was recorded when Jane Harvey was 88, was undergoing chemo-therapy, and had only a few months left to live. Despite this, reports suggested that this might be the best record she made in her long career. Could this really be so? After all, her past work is very good, including as it does recording Close As Pages In A Book with Benny Goodman in 1944, the 1959 album, Leave It to Jane, recorded by her then husband, Bob Thiele, a 1978 album of Fats Waller songs, You Fats … Me Jane, and more recently the critically-acclaimed Other Side Of Sondheim. So, were those reports exaggerated or is this new album exceptional? Happily, any wary preconceptions are completely unfounded as this album is an absolute delight.harvey In 2013, with a career going back some seven decades and aware that her time was fast running out, Jane decided on a final recording date. For this, she turned to the songs of Duke Ellington, mainly choosing songs that are familiar (if not always in vocal versions) as well as some that are rarely heard. Referring again to the circumstances of the date, it would have been understandable had she decided to hide behind a large orchestra but she was having none of this. Each of these songs is sung with the accompaniment of just one instrumentalist thus creating an intimate atmosphere in which the musicians explore the heart and soul of the music. Jane’s accompanists here are pianist Mike Renzi and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli on tracks recorded in New York, to where she flew despite her extremely poor health, and guitarist Ron Eschete, on tracks recorded in Hollywood (closer to home and supervised by her son, Bob Thiele Jr.). Given the pared-down format, there was no arranger, just Jane deciding with the accompanying instrumentalist what would be done. Among the songs are Sophisticated Lady, In A Sentimental Mood, (In My) Solitude, Prelude To A Kiss, The Sky Fell Down (a song for which Jane wrote the lyrics), What Am I Here For?, I Didn’t Know About You, I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good), and Mood Indigo. The album is set out as a tribute to Duke Ellington but the reality is that it is a tribute to an immensely gifted singer whose work should be used as an obligatory teaching aid for singers not just of jazz but also those in any area of popular music. This album can be summed up in one word: Wonderful.

You will find much more to entertain and inform you on these sites:-

Vintage BandstandJazz FlashesJazz WaxFrank GriffithJohn Robert Brown

And Amazon is the place to go for these albums.

Jazz CD Reviews – early February 2016

February 1, 2016

Marlene VerPlanck The Mood I’m In (Audiophile ACD 348)

The past twenty-plus years has seen Marlene VerPlanck regularly visiting the UK, sometimes with side trips to Continental Europe. Only occasionally has she recorded while on these trips and that makes this new release even more of a delight. The regularity of these visits means that Marlene has built up good musical relationships with several key instrumentalists and during her 26th UK tour she went into the studio with the trio of pianist John Pearce, bassist Paul Morgan and drummer Bobby Worth.MVP Also making a most welcome contribution to five tracks is Mark Nightingale on trombone, and on four tracks Andy Panayi on tenor saxophone and flute. Marlene is fully supported by these fine instrumentalists, many of whom have solo moments that are taken with skill and ingenuity. As always, Marlene’s selection of songs is impeccable, drawing as she does not only from familiar materials but also from distant corners of the Great American Songbook as well as work by superior jazz artists. Among the chosen composers are Harry Warren and Ted Koehler, Me And The Blues, Warren and Mack Gordon,This Is Always, Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner, Too Late Now, Henry Mancini and Bobby Troup, Free And Easy, Benny Carter and Paul Vandervoort, My Kind Of Trouble Is You, and Duke Ellington, Johnny Hodges and Don George, It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dream. In all cases, Marlene’s innate skill and feeling for the heart of a song allow her to bring warmth and understanding to the often magical worlds created by the lyricists. The set also includes a two-song medley enjoyed by audiences on her tour with which she pays tribute to Frank Sinatra: It Started All Over Again, Carl Fischer and Bill Carey, and The Second Time Around, Jimmy VanHeusen and Sammy Cahn. If you, like me have long been an admirer of Marlene VerPlanck, you will be delighted to know that her vocal sound remains virtually unchanged and as always she has delivered glowing performances of some wonderful songs.

Lyn Stanley Interludes (A.T. Music 3104)

On another album reviewed here a few months ago Lyn Stanley chose her repertoire from songs composed in the 1950s. On this, her third album, Lyn has delved a little further back in time for many of her songs. Although some of these are familiar, they are given interpretations that render them new and fresh while remaining true to the original intentions of composers and lyricists. Among these songs are How Long Has This Been Going On, Just One Of Those Things, More Than You Know, Don’t Explain, In A Sentimental Mood, and Boulevard Of Broken Dreams.lyn stanley Lyn is joined here by two groups of accompanists. On four tracks are Mike Garson, piano, John Chiodani, guitar, Chuck Berghofer, bass, and Paul Kreibich, drums. One nine the core quartet has Bill Cunliffe on piano and Ray Brinker on drums, replacing Garson and Kreibich, with additional instrumentalists appearing on some tracks: Bob McChesney, trombone, Henrick Muerkens, harmonica, Cecilia Tsan, cello, and Brad Dutz, percussion. One track, I’m A Fool To Want You, is just Lyn with John Chiodani’s guitar. Throughout this album, Lyn Stanley sings with flair and understanding and the result is a delight.

Wendy Pedersen & Jim Gasior We Two (Jimmy G’s House of Sound)

Long established in Florida, Wendy Pedersen may be less well known elsewhere in America; if this should be so then surely this must change. On this new set, Wendy sings in duo with pianist Jim Gasior, the two having worked together successfully for several years although I understand that this is their first joint release. Pleasingly blending cabaret with touches of jazz, they present an admirable selection of songs that are chosen and performed with loving care.pedersen Among these are some from the Great American Songbook, Exactly Like You, The Best Thing For You, some from the world of jazz, Everything But You, Jitterbug Waltz, ‛Round Midnight, and others from Broadway, It Ain’t Necessarily So, My Favorite Things. Their obvious shared love for the songs they perform allow Wendy and Jim to respectfully take a few liberties here and there, giving Oh, What A Beautiful Morning a touch of Deep South churchgoing music, The Best Thing For You is taken at a faster tempo than is usually heard, and My Favorite Things is rendered in an unusual time signature. Wendy’s voice is rich, her diction clear, and everywhere she displays her understanding of the lyrics of the songs she sings. Jim’s work here is much more than that of accompanist, he is a collaborator, providing appropriate cushioning to the vocal lines and soloing with imaginative verve. Together they make a thoroughly entertaining duo and this album is warmly recommended.

You will find much more to entertain and inform you on these sites:-

Vintage BandstandJazz FlashesJazz Wax

And Amazon is the place to go for these albums.

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