Jazz CD Reviews – mid-May 2015

May 15, 2015

The Cunninghams São Paulo Lights (NH 8416)

This fine album brings both sorrow and joy. The sorrow is because this is one of the last recordings made by Don and Alicia Cunningham before Alicia’s death in December 2014. The joy comes from the music as this exceptional vocal duo joins forces with the Elvaldo Soares Quartet during a 2012 visit to Brazil.Cunninghams+me The four instrumentalists, leading lights of the richly varied São Paulo music scene, are pianist Elvaldo Soares, guitarist Cesar Lopes, bassist Lito Robledo, and drummer Douglas Andrade. Experts in Brazil’s national music, they are also experienced jazzmen. Among the songs heard here are some from the Latin and the jazz repertoires as well as standards. They include Anos Dourados, by Antonio Carlos Jobim-Chico Buarque de Holanda, Peter & Paul, Eumir Deodato, Morning, Clare Fischer, Love Vibrations, Horace Silver, My Ship, Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin, and More Than You Know, William Rose-Edward Eliscu-Vincent Youmans. From soulful ballads to breakneck bebop by way of rhythmic Braziliana, the vocal duo is center stage throughout with their contrasting sound and style blending superbly: Alicia’s coolly poised, Don’s urgently edgy. Adding to the rhythmic drive of the quartet, Don is heard playing conga drums on some tracks, while on the closing track, São Paulo Lights, Roberto Sion plays flute and reeds. Lively and hugely entertaining, this is one to savor. The album might take some finding but do try; it is well worth the effort and you will surely agree that the duo had earned the acronym SJVP by which they were known: Super Jazz Vocal Pair.

For more on The Cunninghams, see my article in the June 2015 issue of Jazz Journal.


Joshua Breakstone 2nd Avenue (Capri 74137-2)

Bringing new life not only to some familiar music but also to the concept of ‛chamber jazz’, guitarist Joshua Breakstone presents this new release. Subtitled The Return Of The Cello-Quartet, this admirable set features not only Joshua’s fleet and deceptively simple-sounding lines but also cellist Mike Richmond, bassist Lisle Atkinson, and drummer Andy Watson. joshua b All four musicians play with skill, ingenuity and are very much like-minded in their approach. This is collective music making where the overall concept takes precedence over individuals. That said, the solos by the individual members of the group are all highly effective and vividly display their improvisational abilities. Among the music heard here are standards, I Wish I Knew and The Lamp Is Low; and jazz works, among which are Dexter Gordon’s Evergreenish, Cannonball Adderley’s Home, and Lee Konitz’s Thingin’. There are also two originals, one each my Lisle and Joshua. As a fine example of the qualities of musicianship these four men bring to their work, the (doubtless surprising) inclusion of I’m An Old Cowhand should be heard. Melodically, this is embedded in the subconscious of many and to hear it revived and reinvigorated with such sparkling wit and eloquence is a real joy.

For more on Joshua Breakstone contact Braithwaite & Katz (Ann@bkmusicpr.com)


Michelle Lordi Drive (Creeper Music)

Michelle Lordi is a singer worth hearing again and again. She is a young woman, yet throughout this album displays maturity in the manner in which she presents songs, which are mostly standards. Among these songs are You’re My Thrill, Imagination, My Ship, I Fall In Love Too Easily and (I Don’t Stand) A Ghost Of A Chance.lordi A clear, distinctive vocal sound marks Michelle’s work and it is a delight to hear her display care and understanding of the intent of the composers and lyricists. Choosing to stay close to the original forms in which the songs were cast, she colors them with subtle touches of phrasing that make them fresh and appropriate for today. There is a sophisticated elegance in Michelle’s approach but not one that distances her, instead it makes the listener eager to draw closer to share the experience. Michelle is accompanied by pianist Tom Lawton (Orrin Evans on three tracks), tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna, bassist Madison Rast, and drummer Dan Monaghan.

For more on Michelle Lordi see her site and that of Jim Eigo.


David Berkman Old Friends And New Friends (Palmetto PM2177)

With this new release, pianist David Berkman also displays his skill as a composer. He is clearly a listener, demonstrating this by writing music that effectively showcases the individual talents of the musicians with whom he is working.david berkman This music ranges through intimate moods, of which Psalm is an example, through lively swinging pieces, Up Jump Ming, to exhilarating blues-ish romps, No Blues No Really No Blues. David’s gifts as a soloist are similarly evident, but here he is primarily a team player and quite a team it is. With David are bassist Linda Oh (a member of his current quartet), drummer Brian Blade, and saxophonists Dayna Stephens (also in his quartet), playing soprano & tenor, Billy Drewes, soprano & alto, and Adam Kolker, soprano, alto & tenor (the last named also playing clarinet and bass clarinet). Brian Blade has worked with David from time to time over the years although not as often as both might have liked, given their separately busy schedules as bandleaders. Nevertheless, their musical affinity is evident throughout this fine set and Brian’s subtly understated propulsion is a highlight. Contemporary music-making of a very high order that will delight existing fans and should attract many newcomers.

For more on David Berkman contact Braithwaite & Katz (Ann@bkmusicpr.com)


Roger Davidson Live At Caffè Vivaldi Volume 2 (Soundbrush SR 4002)
This second volume of music recorded at Caffè Vivaldi by Roger Davidson presents a set of his own compositions (there is one piece by Jobim). Released on
Soundbrush (Roger’s own label), it is filled with delights.roger v2 Although an eclectic musician, Roger has a very special affinity with the music of Brazil and this is vividly demonstrated here as he and his trio dance through the timeless rhythms of that land. On the first volume recorded at this venue, Roger played duets with bassist Pablo Aslan who is here again for three tracks, the rest of the set having bassist David Finck, with drummer Adriano Santos underpinning the music with an infectious beat. Over the years the musical links between Brazil and jazz have become ever stronger and Roger Davidson can take much credit for the part he has played and continues to play in this meeting of musical minds.

For more on the first set, see my February 2015 post, while more on Roger can be found at Jim Eigo‘s site.

Perry Beekman S’Wonderful (own label)

For this new set of standards, singer-guitarist Perry Beekman is again joined by his regular musical companions, pianist Peter Tomlinson and bassist Lou Pappas. On their previous set, reviewed in April 2014, the trio played the music of Rodgers and Hart while here it is the work of George and Ira Gershwin on which they focus their respectful attention. George was deeply influenced by jazz in the 1920s and 1930s, and this is reflected in his compositions and correspondingly his themes were immediately picked up by musicians of the day and in every succeeding decade.perry Here, Perry’s arrangements retain the melodic delights of the songs, while allowing moments for improvised solos. George’s brother, Ira, also responded to contemporary trends in popular music and his lyrics display wit, ingenuity, poetic charm and wistful longing. Heard here are many of the Gershwins’ timeless wonders, among them Fascinating Rhythm, I Got Rhythm, How Long Has This Been Going On?, I’ve Got A Crush On You, and Someone To Watch Over Me.

For more on Perry Beekman see his site.

Most of these albums are available at Amazon.

Jazz CD Reviews – April 2014

April 28, 2014

The name of this site is JazzMostly, and these two albums offer an explanation of sorts for this choice of title. Neither one is a jazz album, yet both have a lot of appeal to me, a jazz fan.

First up is:

Perry Beekman Bewitched (own label)

New York guitarist-vocalist Perry Beekman has already made clear his love for and affinity with the music of the classic songwriters of yesteryear. An earlier CD, So In Love, featured the songs of Cole Porter; the sub-title of this one makes its focus clear: Perry Beekman Sings And Plays Rodgers And Hart. Performing here with his regular trio partners, pianist Peter Tomlinson and bassist Lou Pappas, takes a relaxed and swinging look at songs that have attracted the attention of practically any popular singer who can be brought to mind, some of them devoting albums albums to them as Perry does here. Additionally, these songs have long been source material for jazz instrumentalists. Among the fifteen songs here are There’s A Small Hotel, Falling In Love With Love, The Lady Is A Tramp, Spring Is Here,Thou Swell and, of course, Bewitched. There are also two instrumental tracks, Have You Met Miss Jones? and Blue Room.bewitched

As is apparent when hearing those last two named songs, the trio swings with elegant ease and all three musicians deliver well-conceived and -performed jazz solos. These qualities appear throughout the album, interspersed around Perry’s vocals. These vocal lines show a different side to Perry’s talent. While his vocal lines reveal his jazz-inflected phrasing, his is a pop-oriented singing style and one that is especially attractive. There is an intriguing presentation of these two sides of Perry Beekman. This comes on It Never Entered My Mind where the song is divided into two separate and distinctive sections; instrumental and solo vocal. Very nice.

Louis Prima Jr Blow (Warrior Records WR 16532)

On this stomping set, trumpeter-vocalist Louis Prima Jr does as his famous father did; he delivers full-frontal, aggressively wailing performances of music that defies the listener not to tap toes, snap fingers and join in the merry-making. Stylistically, this set owes much to Louis Prima Sr, who in his turn drew upon diverse yet compatible musical genres: swing era jump bands, soul, classic R&B, early rock ‘n’ roll. This said, Louis Jr does not rely upon the past; instead, mostly he and his band, named the Witnesses, another nod to his father, perform original material, written by Louis and his musical collaborators here, which unslavishly acknowledges the tradition. The other instrumentalists heard are keyboard player Gregg Fox, guitarist Ryan McKay, bassist Steve Pandis and drummer A.D. Adams, with trumpeter Ted Schumacher and trombonist Phil Clevinger. Key sideman in the band, and like Louis with a lot to measure up to, is saxophonist Marco Palos whose gutsy, take-charge solos have the power and impact similar that which made Sam Butera such an important figure in the original Witnesses. Also heard here is singer Leslie Spencer, whose soulful vocal sound (mostly background but occasionally effectively solo) adds immeasurably to the overall effect, albeit in a manner that is quite different from the way in which Keely Smith’s singing was juxtaposed with the gravelly sound of Louis Sr.blow

Apart from the eight originals (seven by Louis Jr, Palos, McKay and Adams and one by producer Jim Ervin), there is a latterday pop song, Goody Two Shoes, and two from Louis Sr’s repertoire. One of these is Robin Hood, and the other is That’s My Home. On this last-named song, thanks to some in-studio engineering, father and son play trumpet and sing together. This kind of beyond-the-grave duet is risky, but here, thankfully, it works; in part this is because the extrovert nature of both musicians comfortably steers clear of the danger of overt sentimentality.

These two albums are very different from one another; one is smoothly sophisticated thoughtful music that well suits the intimacy of late-night cabaret; the other is often raucous, wild and in-your-face. Although coming from opposite extremes, one similarity suggests itself – to me, at least – and that is that both Perry Beekman and Louis Prima Jr are very probably best seen as well as heard. While seeing them in person is unlikely for most of us, maybe there’s a chance of a DVD? I for one will welcome that.

For more info on these CDs, release dates May and June respectively, go to the artist websites (above) or to the Jazz Promo Services website.

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