May 24, 2016
During the past few decades the boundaries between jazz and other musical genres have become steadily more blurred. This observation is well illustrated by these four albums, which together bring a heady mix of styles.
Victor & Penny Electricity (Overtone VP 101)
For the past five or so years, Jeff Freling and Erin McGrane have been working together, touring and delighting audiences with their intriguing performances. Billed as Victor & Penny, they are heard here with their Loose Change Orchestra. Victor (Jeff) plays guitar and Penny (Erin) plays ukelele, and both sing. While Victor’s singing is confined mostly to harmonizing with Penny, she has several features. On uptempo songs, she has a slightly nasal quality that suits the music and the mood, while on ballads she her vocal sound is clear, unforced and youthful. Instrumentally, they are skilled practitioners, Victor playing several very good solos and Penny using the lighter toned sound of the ukelele as a driving to help drive the group. The most featured instrumental soloist in The Loose Change Orchestra is James Isaac on clarinet (he also plays soprano saxophone and melodica), the other leading members being Rick Willoughby, bass & ukelele bass, and Kyle Dahlquist, trombone, while also on hand are Paton Goskie, violin, and Dustin Ransom who plays accordion, mandolin, piano and Hammond B-3 organ. Nine of the ten tracks are composed by Victor and Penny (one of these, Say Goodbye, with Cody Wyoming) and they are richly varied in concept, structure and style. Among them are Day Off Boogie, which brings to mind late swing era jump bands, Rickshaw Chase, an engaging up-tempo piece that carries Klezmer echoes, and Penny’s Pounce and Hide, Seek, both with fine instrumental solos. The only non-original is Gordon (Sting) Sumner’s Moon Over Bourbon Street, which here has an air that perhaps owes more to Europe than New Orleans – although even in name the city is the most European in North America. Victor & Penny have won awards from folk-oriented organizations and while jazz and folk do not readily come to mind as compatible bedfellows this raises the side issue of pigeon-holing. The term ‛folk’ actually describes a richly varied genre in much the same way that ‛jazz’ means many things to many people. Only slight broadening of the folk genre brings in some aspects of country, bluegrass for example, and it is only a very small stretch to think of the long-ago popularity of the western-swing of Bob Wills and the early work of Chet Atkins (his quartet with George Benson), as well as, more recently, several artists who move comfortably through many of these genres: Bela Flek and April Barrows come readily to mind. But all this is digressing from this very pleasing album although there is a reason for this. I hope it’s not just me, but I think it is unfairly limiting to tack a genre label onto this hugely entertaining group. That said, I think that the apparent need for labeling (by promoters, radio outlets and the like) inhibits musicians of this quality. Victor & Penny and their colleagues deserve to be heard by all who like to hear good music well played by skilful artists.
Antonio Adolfo Tropical Infinito (AAM 0710)
The musical genres blended here are Brazilian samba and hard-bop jazz of the early 1960s and while others have done this before during the past half century, pianist Antonio Adolfo does it with effortless flair and instrumental skill. Antonio is joined here by the driving rhythm team of guitarists Leo Amuedo and Claudio Spievak, bassist Jorge Helder, drummer Rafael Barata, and percussionist André Siqueira. There are also fine soloists in Jessé Sadoc, trumpet and flugelhorn, Marcelo Martins, saxophones, and Serginho Trombone who, appropriately enough, plays trombone. The horn players are all in fine form, Jessé delivering flowing, lyrical solos that have depth and intensity; Serghino’s playing is forcefully dramatic; Marcelo, who plays tenor and soprano, has a tough, no-nonsense approach that ably bridges to two musical genres. The pieces played here are four of Antonio’s originals, two by Benny Golson (Whisper Not and Killer Joe), Horace Silver’s Song For My Father, Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments, and one standard, All The Things You Are. All are arranged by Antonio and he seamlessly blends the styles and ensures that there is ample solo space for his talented colleagues. This is a lively and thoroughly entertaining set that should appeal to many, be they fans of jazz or the music of Brazil.
Carol Saboya Carolina (AAM 0709)
Brazilian singer Carol Saboya has a pleasingly soft vocal sound that admirably suits all of the music she performs. Heard here are three songs written or co-written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, (Passarim, A Felicidade, Olha, Maria), two by Latin Grammy Achievement Award winner Djavan (Avião, Faltando Um Pedaço), three by other leading Brazilian composers, as well as two pop songs, Sting’s Fragile and Lennon and McCartney’s Hello, Goodbye. Carol is accompanied here by her constant collaborator, pianist and arranger Antonio Adolfo, along with several members of his regular group: Marcelo Martins, flute and soprano saxophone, Leo Amuedo (and Claudio Spievak), guitar, Jorge Helder, bass, Rafael Barata, drums, and André Siqueira, percussion. Throughout, the music has an engaging airiness, reflecting the spaciousness of the homeland of the performers and most of the composers and lyricists. Reflective, soothing, accomplished.
Nána Simopoulos Skins (Na Records NR 9206 2)
Noted in many areas of the arts Nána Simopoulos has composed music for several contemporary dance companies, including Dance Theatre of Harlem, scores for motion pictures and theatrical productions, as well as music for classical ensembles. An important part of Nána’s musical training came during her teenage years when she traveled from America to Greece. First recording in her own name in 1984, she has worked with leading jazz musicians including Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, her albums including two on Enja Records. She has also led her own groups, including World Music of Nána. All eight tracks heard here are Nána’s own compositions and the range of her inspirational sources is readily apparent, most particularly the music and the poetry of the east. Singing and playing guitar and bouzouki, Nána is joined by a dozen instrumentalists noted in world music and in jazz, along them being saxophonist Dave Liebman, bassist Mary Ann McSweeney, and drummer Royal Hartigan. Always interesting, this new release will be welcomed by Nána’s many fans around the world.
Carla Hassett +Blue (Paulista unnumbered)
Although born in Brazil, Carla Hassett was raised in Chicago where she lived amidst the city’s Brazilian community. As a result, she was exposed to many musical forms, including those of her homeland. Becoming a professional singer, she worked with local bands singing blues, funk, pop and many of the song styles of Latin America. Settling in Los Angeles, Carla worked extensively in recording studios as backing singer to leading names in pop, as well as in film and television studios, singing on soundtracks. She also worked in musical education, including teaching at Silverlake Conservatory of Music. Although she admires, respects and sings music composed by distinguished Brazilians, Carla also writes much of the music she performs. On this album, seven of the ten songs are her own, among them the samba flavored Pois É E Tal and Sangue Da Terra, and a touch of bossa nova is heard on Sem Calor. When Carla’s sunny and airy vocal sound is combined with her lyrics she brings to life the images that her many of her compatriots must carry in their minds. She is accompanied here by instrumentalists from both her homeland her adopted country. Heard here are the sounds of the guitar, accordion, trumpet, trombone, keyboards and of course percussion. Among the players are guitarist João Pedro Mourão, bassist Andre de Santanna, and percussionist Leonardo Costa, who provide a propulsive rhythmic undertow. The closing track, South American Way, is a nod of appreciation to Carmen Miranda although Carla’s treatment comes as a welcome surprise as she reflects on the sadness of those who live far from home.
More information on all of these artists can be found at Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services.
Other informative and entertaining sites to visit:-
Jazz Journal –
Vintage Bandstand –
Jazz Flashes –
Jazz Wax –
Frank Griffith –
John Robert Brown –
May 10, 2016
Lauren White Out Of The Past: Jazz & Noir (Café Pacific CPCD 45130)
Even before hearing this excellent album, I was intrigued by its premise and title. In choosing her material, Lauren White has drawn upon songs performed on and off screen in films noir, those now classic movies that first appeared in the 1940s. Among the songs are He’s Funny That Way (from 1946’s The Postman Always Rings Twice), Again (1948’s Road House), You Kill Me (1952’s Macao) and the title song from 1944’s Laura. Other songs not heard in noir movies, but which fit the mood are Matt Dennis and Tom Adair’s The Night We Called It A Day and When All The Lights In The Sign Worked, an original by Joe Pasquale and Mark Winkler (the latter producer of this album). Lauren is accompanied by the trio of pianist Mitchel Forman, bassist Trey Henry and drummer Abe Lagrimas, Jr, with guest brass, reeds and strings on some tracks, while the arrangements are by Kathryn Bostic, herself a singer and composer, who is sole accompanist at the piano on Haunted Heart, which comes from the 1948 Broadway musical revue Inside U.S.A. The arrangements skilfully transport the music from that long ago era to the present day while still retaining reflections of the original source. As for the personal appeal of the title, although not musically represented here, Out Of The Past is one of the classics of the genre. My own interest in the source material inspired one of my books, Film Noir: Reflections In A Dark Mirror, (available as an e-book) and I have also written on the subject elsewhere on this site (December 2013). Lauren’s voice ably suits the material, moodily introspective where needed, bringing to mind the imagery of film noir, those shadowed, neon-lit, rain-streaked streets brought vividly to Hollywood by those filmmakers who had hurriedly left Germany during the late 1930s and early 1940s where they had worked with such distinction in the Expressionist period of European cinema. The singer’s clarity of diction allows the listener to consider the words, perhaps in some cases overlooked when they were heard on and off screen as nuanced shading rather than as spotlit features. This last point is underlined by Lauren’s interesting choice of Amado Mio from 1946’s Gilda, rather than the decidedly un-nuanced Put The Blame On Mame (explosively performed on screen by Rita Hayworth and dubbed by Anita Ellis). Based in Los Angeles, Lauren sings in jazz venues (as she does also occasionally in New York), and also works in the theater and television as actor and producer. With this, her fourth album, should she choose to do so she will surely substantially extend her audience.
Louis Heriveaux Triadic Episode (Hot Shoe HSR 110)
Although well known in and around Atlanta, Georgia, as a sideman, Louis Heriveaux is now attracting wider attention as a soloist and fronting a fine trio. The repertoire chosen here includes standards, Everything I Love, Body And Soul and All The Things You Are, jazz pieces, Kenny Dorham’s Blue Bossa and Mulgrew Miller’s From Day To Day, as well as originals by the trio. These are Swing’n Things, by drummer Terreon Gully, Lundy’s Blues, by bassist Curtis Lundy,Theme For DosLyn and One For Simus, by Louis, and Triadic Episode, by Louis and Curtis. Throughout, Louis plays with a gentle touch, bringing out all the inherent subtleties of the compositions and also improvising intelligently upon the themes. There is also a swinging rhythmic undertow brought to the occasion by the pianist and his companions. The piano-bass-drums trio is perhaps the most ubiquitous format among jazz groups but there is no sense of sameness here. Instead, the music is fresh and thoroughly entertaining and this, his debut album, is sure to broaden his appeal to include a much wider audience than hitherto.
Daria Strawberry Fields Forever (OA2 Records 22129)
With this album, Daria takes up a demanding challenge, because in common with many latterday composers of pop songs, John Lennon and Paul McCartney did not customarily follow the 32-bar AABA pattern for popular songs that has supplied so much material to the jazz repertoire. One result of this is that with only scattered exceptions the songs of the Beatles, for the most part composed by Lennon and McCartney, have not been widely used by jazz singers. Among those exceptions is Connie Evingson, who sings some of their songs on her albums Let It Be and All The Cats Join In (about which there is more in an earlier post). One result of a jazz artist drawing her repertoire from this source is the pleasing quality that many of the songs are familiar but not overdone in jazz circles. Among the most familiar are The Fool On The Hill and Can’t Buy Me Love, by McCartney, and Strawberry Fields Forever by Lennon. Other songs heard here are Come Together, written by Lennon, after having failed to find the right material for a gubernatorial campaign song wanted by Timothy Leary, and his deeply introspective Julia, written in memory of his mother. There are also a few non-Beatles songs, including Daria’s original, She’s Going Home, inspired by Lennon and McCartney’s She’s Leaving Home. Some of the songs have undercurrents of sadness, others are light-hearted; Daria shows her respect for the mood of the originals, but throughout offers her own concepts, which display her affection for Latin music. Daria’s vocal sound, creamily-rich and flowing, allied as it is to her ability to delve deeply in her interpretations, bring fresh life to songs that are, however hard it is to believe it, around half a century old. For this album, Daria has surrounded herself with leading Bay-area musicians, including, as her core rhythm team, Jonathan Alford, keyboards, Sam Bevan, bass, and Deszon Claiborne, drums. In addition to the trio there are brass, reed, percussion and string instruments that richly extend the tonal palette in a very agreeable manner.
For more information on Lauren White, Louis Heriveaux and Daria, including booking arrangements, see Mouthpiece Music.
Other informative and entertaining sites you might enjoy:-
Jazz Journal –
Vintage Bandstand –
Jazz Flashes –
Jazz Wax –
Frank Griffith –
John Robert Brown –