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 – February 2015

February 10, 2015

Dale Bruning Thanks For The Memory . . . Jim Hall (Jazz Link Enterprises JLECD 1214)

This wonderfully melodic double album was recorded live at Dazzle Jazz Club in Denver over two evenings in September 2014. These concerts brought together guitarists Dale Bruning and Bill Frisell, long ago teacher and pupil, to pay tribute to their mutual friend and fellow guitar master, Jim Hall, who died in December 2013. Drawing music from the Great American Songbook as well as some well-known pieces from Spain and Brazil and Jim Hall’s own pen, Dale and Bill are supremely lyrical and inventive as they expand upon lovely melodies. The other four members of Dale’s sextet on this occasion are Ron Miles (cornet), Mark Patterson (trombone), Mark Simon (bass) and Paul Romaine (drums). All these musicians play with admirable skill and ingenuity, their solos displaying empathy with the composers of the music, the arranger (Dale), and – not at all surprisingly for musicians of this caliber – with one another.TFTM CD Cover  2x2 R Sadowsky photo 2014 The repertoire presented here includes Cole Porter’s You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s My Funny Valentine andWith A Song in My Heart, Sonny Rollins’ St. Thomas, a gorgeous Body And Soul; a long and always engaging performance of Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto; two very different versions of Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin’s Thanks For The Memory, one by the sextet, the other by only cornet and trombone backed by Dale’s guitar; and three Jim Hall originals, All Across The City, Careful and Big Blues. These two CDs are filled with musical delights that will bring pleasure to those who love music from the melodic mainstream of jazz and especially to jazz guitar enthusiasts who will aspire to and admire the skill of these masters of their art.

There is much more of Dale Bruning’s music reviewed elsewhere on this site; take a look at Jazz Guitar – Music & Words in October 2012 and Jazz CD Reviews in October 2013. More information, including booking details, can be seen at Jazz Link Enterprises, which is also where this CD can be bought. There is also an article on Dale Bruning in the August 2014 issue of Jazz Journal.


Judi Silvano My Dance (JSL Records 010)

Here, Judi Silvano sings a collection of songs that are all her own compositions, with her lyrics on four of them, on which she is accompanied by the always engaging pianist Michael Abene. On two previous CDs by Judi I have heard and reviewed, she worked with small groups (one of them including Michael) while on another she was in a duo with pianist Mal Waldron (Riding A Zephyr on Soul Note). Remarking on that album, I wrote: ‛The result is a rewarding, often intense, musical experience; one that will be especially valued by those with an ear for new departures in jazz that expand and enhance the repertoire.’ The last part of this remark stemmed from the fact that on that occasion the songs were all compositions by Waldron with lyrics by Judi.judi silvano This new set bears some resemblances because here Judy is again accompanied by only a pianist, while again the songs are all originals. The resulting set is an always intriguing demonstration of the mutual understanding that can develop between musicians when thinking alike and playing with close attention to one another’s musical needs. As Judi says, ‛It’s a duo project of deep collaborations and intimate moments interpreting my melodies and stories.’ Some of the songs have been in Judi’s and Michael’s repertoire for a while and are performed with new lyrics while others are new for this album. On several of the tracks, Judi presents scat vocals that suit the overall mood. All those who have a liking for contemporary jazz and improvised music will find much here that is to their liking.


Roger Davidson & Pablo Aslan Live At Caffè Vivaldi (Soundbrush SR4001)

Playing mostly his own always lyrical compositions, pianist Roger Davidson finds an ideal collaborator in Argentine bass player Pablo Aslan. Roger’s delicately shaded touch is the perfect way to present his often graceful music that is always absorbing. The secure underpinning of Pablo’s bass also helps maintain the lightly swinging atmosphere that cloaks this live session. Pablo’s love for his country’s musical tradition can be heard on his album, Buenos Aires Tango Standards (Zoho). Here, apart from Roger’s work, there are three tracks by other composers: Irving Berlin’s How Deep Is The Ocean, Angel Villoldo’s El Choclo, and an especially lovely interpretation of Stelvio Cipriani’s Anónimo Veneziano.roger davidson This said, the greater part of the music is Roger Davidson’s and he is as interesting in his role as composer as he is when performing. Throughout, he demonstrates his complete command of the jazz and Latin idioms that are only a small part of his musical interests and ability, which ranges through chamber music and symphonic works to encompass aspects of popular music, the last named being especially apparent in his love for the music of Brazil. Altogether, this concert is a delight and will appeal to all those who admire jazz piano to which Roger and Pablo apply touches of South American warmth and romance.

Keri Johnsrud This Side Of Morning (KJ Music KJ 0029)

For this, her latest album, Keri Johnsrud introduces another facet of her talent, that of songwriter. Where her début set, All Blue, was mainly standards plus some lesser-known items from the past, here she sings ten songs written by herself in collaboration with pianist Kevin Bales, whose accompaniment here smoothly enfolds Keri’s youthfully fresh and warm vocal sound. As might be expected, her interpretations are filled with profound understanding of the lyrics. Highly musical, Keri studied piano and trumpet and has worked extensively in vocal groups of all sizes up to and including choirs, in various parts of the USA and also in Europe.keri johnsrud As a solo singer, Keri has worked nightspots in her home state of Iowa as well as in Atlanta, Chicago, where she is now based, and New York, and is now becoming much more widely known. Also heard on this album are Larry Kohut, bass, Jon Deitemyer, drums, as well as guitarist Neal Alger and vibraphonist Stephen Lynerd. Keri’s is an enjoyable voice on today’s jazz scene, and this new album, which is due for release on 7 April 2015, will be admired by many.

Uptown Jazz Vocal Quartet Vocal Madness (HouseKat unnumbered)

Starting out in Washington, DC, the Uptown Jazz Vocal Quartet is an exceptional vocal group. Add to this, alto saxophonist Richie Cole, a great admirer of the UJVQ, and the stage is set for a hugely entertaining hour of music making. The group’s members are Ginny Carr, Robert McBride, Holly Shockey and André Enceneat, while other instrumentalists heard include pianist Alan Blackman, guitarist Steve Herberman, bassist Max Murray, and drummer Frank Russo. Richie’s recognition of the quartet’s qualities was based upon his experience of working extensively with The Manhattan Transfer (he was on three of their Grammy-winning albums) and it is most assuredly not misplaced. Apart from the vocal skills of the quartet, the saxophonist was also attuned to the arranging and songwriting talent of lead singer Ginny Carr.uptown vocal jq Among the twelve songs on this release are heard five originals by Richie, arranged by Ginny, and four of Ginny’s own compositions. The flawless harmonizing of the singers, along with some vocal solo moments, blend well with the alto saxophonist’s outstanding solos. All this front-line music-making is admirably underpinned by the rhythm section and there are also well-taken guest appearances by Chris Walker, trumpet, Jen Krupa, trombone, Chris Vadala, alto saxophone, and Leigh Pilzer, tenor saxophone. This fine set is a swinging assurance that this kind of jazz singing is in good hands. The album is dedicated to ManTran founder Tim Hauser who died recently; not only is this appropriate, he would surely have approved.

For more information on Judi Silvano, Roger Davidson, Keri Johnsrud and the Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet, take a look at Jim Eigo’s website. As always, these albums are available from Amazon.

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