February 28, 2017
Virginia Schenck Aminata Moseka (Airborne Ecstasy)
On this attractive album, subtitled An Abbey Lincoln Tribute, Atlanta-based singer Virginia Schenck delivers fine interpretations of a dozen songs written by Lincoln in many of which she made clear her strong bonds with the freedom movement in the USA. Here, Virginia (who is usually known as ‘VA’) is joined by a trio of instrumentalists who are also well-established in Atlanta. Clearly, there will be added interest for fans of Lincoln but those who are unfamiliar with her work will find much to admire in the blending of melodic charm with meaningful lyrics. Virginia’s voice has a maturity that suits the material well. It is obvious that the singer understands and endorses the messages contained within the sometimes mystical lyrics. Wholly admirable instrumental contributions from pianist Kevin Bales, bassist Rodney Jordan, and drummer Marlon Patton, who are best described not as accompanists but as collaborators. Virginia makes her own mark on Lincoln’s material as she ranges over a wide stylistic palette. At one extreme is The River, a free form imagining of a traffic-clogged freeway (whereon alto saxophonist Kebbi Williams also plays); at the the other extreme is the splendidly swinging Learning How To Listen (to my ears bearing an occasional resemblance to Benny Carter’s When Lights Are Low). The only non-Lincoln song is Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk, which is given a very pleasing reading. New to me and perhaps new to many, this is a singer who is very well worth hearing.
For more information on Virginia Schenck (including booking) contact Mouthpiece Music.
Josh Green Telepathy & Bop (indie)
A big band playing original compositions that meld modern jazz with contemporary classical music, Josh Green’s Cyborg Orchestra makes its recording debut with this album. Josh’s composing and arranging career has ranged through film and television, the concert hall and the Broadway stage. His emotionally and intellectually stimulating compositions heard here have been inspired by works of art by René Magritte, La Victoire, which has a subtly Latinesque feel, and Edward Hopper, Soir Bleau: A Rag of Sorts, that hints of a long-gone European atmosphere, and there are musical images of Cuba, Reverie Engine: The Ambiguous Rhumba, and Hungary, through Improvisations & Nebula, where Josh reflects upon György Ligeti, a composer he admires. The title work is a three-part suite that links bebop with avant-garde classical music. All of these influences have materialized in Josh’s music since he embraced jazz fully, a decision that was prompted in part by the death of Michael Brecker, one of his musical heroes. The skilled musicians of the Cyborg Orchestra include John Lake (trumpet); Chris Misch-Bloxdorf (trombone); Charles Pillow, Todd Groves, Jay Hassler (saxophones); Nathan Schram, Nick Revel (violas); Clarice Jenson (cello); Michael Verselli (piano); Nathan Kochi (accordion); Sungwon Kim (guitar); Brian Courage (bass); Josh Bailey (drums). Joining the big band on three tracks is the PUBLIQuartet, consisting of Curtis Stewart, Jannina Norpoth (violins), Nick Revel (viola), Amanda Gookin (cello), and Cody Brown (drums). First-rate musicianship throughout, with several good solos, notably from Michael Verselli and all three saxophonists. Altogether, Josh Green’s Cyborg Orchestra is an exciting experience.
Rich Halley & Carson Halley The Wild (Pine Eagle 010)
Constantly developing intriguing musical concepts, Rich Halley and Carson Halley now present a set of ten exploratory themes, all of them instantaneous improvisations. The Halleys, father Rich and son Carson, have played music together for the last two decades, sometimes in quartets but often as a duo and their closely integrated interplay reflects their empathy. Rich plays tenor saxophone, Carson, plays drums, both are imaginative improvisers, their music ranging widely in rhythmic and melodic styles. Among the works heard here are Wild Lands, Flat Plane of The Sky, and The Stroll, and these bring to my mind musical depictions of the natural images of the continent; not the urban sprawl in which most jazz was born and has flourished but the sweeping physical grandeur of the Americas. On the shortest track, The Old Ways, Rich sets aside his saxophone and plays wood flute while Carson drums solemnly. This time, again to my mind – and admittedly influenced by the title – the haunting sound evocatively captures the spirituality of the people of the First Nations. Altogether this is effective, involving and inspirational music.
For more information on Josh Green’s Cyborg Orchestra and the Rich Halley-Carson Halley Duo (including booking) contact Braithwaite & Katz ([email protected]).
All albums available from Amazon.
January 30, 2017
Beata Pater Fire Dance (B&B Records BB 0421)
An earlier album by Beata Pater, Golden Lady (BB 0419), reviewed here, featured her singing a pleasing selection of well-known yet underused songs with just piano and bass accompaniment. On this new release, she sings a collection of wordless songs, all of them originals by Alex Danson, and for these she is joined by a seven-piece band. Rhythmically varied, the music touches on eastern Europe, the Middle East and north Africa, all cloaked in American concepts, including contemporary R&B and jazz/funk. Beata’s vocal sound, soft and intimate, draws the listener in and despite the absence of words succeeds in creating a warmly intimate and lyrical air. The nature of the songs heard here showcases Beata’s musical skill, honed though training as a violinist at Warsaw’s Music Academy, and also as a session singer in Japan. The singer’s accompanists here are saxophonists Sam Newsome, Anton Schwartz, Aaron Lington, keyboard player Scott Collard, bassist Aaron Germain, drummer Alan Hall, and percussionist Brian Rice. Adding immeasurably to the texture of these performances, use is made by Beata of multi-tracking, thus creating a highly effective vocal chorale. The absence of lyrics enhances the Beata’s role as a fully integrated member of the ensemble, her voice being used instrumentally. An attractive album that presents yet another aspect of this multi-faceted artist’s work.
Sidney Jacobs First Man (Baby Chubs Records)
After singing in church and touring internationally with the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers, Sidney Jacobs performed operatic roles and also jazz. Family needs directed him toward a career outside music (he had mastered in Clinical Psychology and Educational Psychology) but music was an ever-present facet of his life. Writing numerous songs in a wide range of genres, Sidney continued to sing, eventually releasing his debut album, Been So Long, in 2013. On this, his second album, Sidney performs seven of his own songs as well as works by Sacha Distel, The Good Life, Bill Withers, Lonely Town Lonely Street, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, My Favorite Things, James Taylor, Secret O’ Life, and others. Sidney’s accompaniment ranges from single instrument (Secret O’ Life with Josh Nelson, piano), duo (The Good Life with Nelson, piano and Zephyr Avalon, bass) to seven- and eight-piece groups. Collectively, these musical collaborators are Nolan Shaheed, trumpet, Wendell Kelly, trombone, Josh Johnson, alto saxophone, Michael Jarvey, piano & viola, Greg Poree, guitar, Zephyr Avalon, bass, Justin Thomas, vibraphone & marimba, Francesco Canas, violin, and Efa Etoroma Jr, drums, and on three tracks Sidney is also backed by vocalist Cathy Segal-Garcia. A strong, mature and distinctive voice enhances Sidney’s original compositions and his unusual and always interesting variations on familiar songs commands attention.
More information on Beata Pater and Sidney Jacobs (including albums and booking) can be found at Mouthpiece Music.
Nick Fizer Hear & Now (Outside In Music OiM 1701)
On this, his third album, trombonist Nick Fizer displays not only his exceptional instrumental skill but also his ability as a composer. All but one of the tracks are Nick’s compositions, and with them Nick seeks unity at a time of division (the exception is a fine interpretation of Duke Ellington’s Single Petal Of A Rose). Although division and strife knows no boundaries, the USA in particular is today divided despite its origins as a land of hope and freedom. What the composer strives to find are ways in which introspective thought might supersede the shoot-from-the-hip approach so often suffered (sometimes quite literally). Given the album concept and the international mood it might be thought that this would result in gloomy music but that is not so. Yes, there are compositions that depict the dark side of life today but there are also optimistic works, suggesting that come what may there will one day be a time of unity in the world. Among Nick’s works heard here are We The People, Race To The Bottom, New Beginnings, and Love Wins. The other instrumentalists joining Nick are Lucas Pino, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Glenn Zaleski, piano, Alex Wintz, guitar, Dave Baron, bass, and Jimmy Macbride, drums.
More information on Nick Fizer, including albums and booking (as well as February and March nationwide tour dates) can be obtained from Braithwaite & Katz: [email protected]
January 16, 2017
Andrea Claburn Nightshade (own label)
On this, her debut album, Andrea Claburn sings an attractive selection of songs, some her own, others by notable composers mostly from the world of jazz. A trained and skillful musician, as a child Andrea studied piano and violin with the encouragement of her parents (her mother was a classical pianist), going on to study singing, composing and arranging. This culminated in her being awarded the California Jazz Conservatory’s Mark Murphy Vocal Scholarship. Five years later, in August 2015, she returned to the Conservatory to teach vocal technique, performance, and musicianship. Andrea’s sound is rich and warm, which is not only admirably suited to her interpretation of ballads but also brings depth and intensity to up-tempo songs. Importantly, Andrea’s treatment of the lyrics of the songs she sings shows understanding and empathy. Her own songs, words and music, are Lionheart, My Favorite Flavor, The Fall Of Man, Colors Of Light, and Steal Away. The others are Duke Ellingtons’s Echoes Of Harlem (with Andrea’s lyrics and retitled Infinite Wisdom), Bill Evans and Gene Lees’ Turn Out The Stars, Pat Metheny’s Bird On A Wire (Andrea’s lyrics), Turner Layton and Henry Creamer’s After You’ve Gone, Betty Carter’s I Can’t Help It, Mark Shelby’s Daybreak (Andrea’s lyrics), and Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer’s Skylark. Cushioning Andrea is the core trio of Matt Clark, piano and keyboards, Sam Bevan, bass, and Alan Hall, drums. Guests added on some tracks supplying support and soloing ably are percussionist John Santos, guitarist Terrence Brewer, trombonist Rob Ewing, trumpeter Erik Jekabsen, alto saxophonist Kasey Knudsen, tenor saxophonist Teddy Raven, violinist Mads Tolling, and cellist Joseph Hébert. A wholly admirable debut and it’s good to know that a new generation of singers is in good hands.
Ron Boustead Unlikely Valentine (Art-Rock Music)
Since the early 1980s, singer-songwriter Ron Boustead has been prominent on the Los Angeles jazz and contemporary music scene. An accomplished musician, Ron studied bass, piano and guitar but has concentrated on writing and singing. He has written lyrics to music composed by several jazz luminaries including Freddie Hubbard and Chick Corea. On Unlikely Valentine, Ron is joined by Bill Cunliffe and Mitchel Forman, who share the role of keyboard player (piano, Rhodes and Hammond B3), John Leftwich, bass, Pat Kelley, guitar, and Jake Reed, percussion. Also heard are instrumental guests Ron Stout, flugelhorn, Bob McChesney, trombone, and Bob Sheppard, tenor saxophone and flute (the latter especially notable on Autumn Leaves). Vocally, Ron’s admiration of Mark Murphy is apparent in some of his work, in particular with his improvisational ability, and on some songs he builds his vocals in much the same way as a jazz instrumentalist performs. On this album, apart from his own compositions, Ron has brought his lyric-writing skill to music by Pat Kelley, Til Now, Bill Cunliffe, Unlikely Valentine, and Bill Cantos, I Won’t Scat. There are also lesser-known songs by well-known composers: I Love My Wife, by Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart, Love Potion #9, by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Along Came Betty, by Benny Golson and Jon Hendricks. On one song, Til Now, Ron duets with vocalist Fabiana Passoni, whose delicate sound blends admirably with Ron’s edginess in a captivating duet. That toughness of Ron’s vocal sound brings depth and strength to this album and throughout he offers profound interpretations of the lyrics. Undoubtedly, this release places him in the front rank of male jazz singers around today.
For more on Andrea Claburn and Ron Boustead contact Holly Cooper at Mouthpiece Music.
These albums can be found at walk-in and on-line stores, including Amazon.
Jazz Journal’s Record of the Year Poll
Every year, around more than thirty contributors to Jazz Journal are invited to vote for ten favorite albums drawn from the 900+ reviewed in the magazine in the past twelve months, new releases and reissues being drawn upon at will. At the risk of sounding grumpy, I am not convinced that polls such as this are valid. Of course the opinions of the reviewers are interesting and informative and they often open ears to previously unheard artists, but the problem for me lies in the fact that every year there are reissues of outstanding material by the greatest names in jazz, among them albums that are cherished by collectors. How can I not vote for, say, Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Seven; or Count Basie and Lester Young’s Classic Sessions; or Charlie Parker’s Savoy Masters? So, as can be seen in the January 2017 issue of Jazz Journal, I have risked incurring Editor Mark Gilbert’s wrath and have chosen not to vote for any of these and other masterpieces that were reissued in 2016. Here, in alphabetical order, is my list for JJ of the year’s top ten albums:
Cyrille Aimée Let’s Get Lost (Mack Avenue 1097)
Harry Allen The Candy Men (Arbord 19450)
Alan Barnes One For Moll (Woodville 144)
Ray Bryant Alone With The Blues (ooooo)
Don Byas New York – Paris (Frémeaux 5622)
Bob Cooper Four Classic Albums (Avid Jazz 1180)
Sinne Eeg Eeg Fonnesbæk (Stunt STUCD 15082)
Thad Jones-Mel Lewis All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings At The Village Vanguard (Resonance 2023)
René Marie Sounds Of Red (Motéma 234231)
Sarah Vaughan Live At Rosy’s (Resonance 2017)
To see which albums attracted the votes of the other reviewers (from which emerged the Record of the Year), you can subscribe to the magazine via their website. The annual subscription for twelve issues including mailing will cost you no more than a cup of coffee a week – a whole lot less in some places – and is far more nourishing.
November 30, 2016
Marcello Pellitteri Aquarius Woman (Marpel Music 0002)
Long established as performer, composer, arranger and educator, drummer Marcello Pellitteri has appeared on scores of albums, but the emotional depths of this one are exceptional. A tribute to the all too short life of Marcello’s daughter, Veronica, this is excellent contemporary jazz, intense and powerful, moving and inspiring. Marcello is joined here by alto saxophonist Orazio Maugeri, pianist Salvatore Bonafede and bassist Gabrio Bevilacqua, as well as guests on some tracks. These are tenor saxophonists George Garzone and Rino Cirinnà, vocalists Nedelka Prescod and Lauren Kinhan, guitarist Marcello Todaro and harmonica player Yvonnick Prene. The music played includes compositions by Marcello and others heard here, all of them drawing upon memories of a much-loved young woman. Veronica’s voice is also heard: Aquarius Woman was composed by Marcello to accompany Veronica’s reading of Murtiningrum’s poem, Greetings Of Hope. This poem’s title is important because despite the background to this album, this is not dark and depressing music but uplifting. It is noted that the proceeds from this (and Marcello’s album Acceptance) go to the Veronica Pellettrini Memorial Fund at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.
Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band ¡Intenso! (Clavo CR 201609)
Building upon Clare Fischer’s remarkable legacy as composer, arranger and bandleader, his son, Brent Fischer, leads the continuing Latin Jazz Big Band. Here, the music presented draws mainly upon compositions by Clare, and on some tracks he is also heard. In the closing years of Clare’s life, he was often recorded with a small group at his home and here his son’s arrangements have added the Latin Jazz Big Band, replete with striking horns and underpinned with percussive power. Altogether, there are more than twenty musicians involved as well as guests who include Sheila E, timbales (on Solar Patrol), drummers Walfredo Reyes (on Play Time) and Tris Imboden (on Solar Patrol), and vocalist Roberta Gambarini (on Gaviota). There are numerous solos by members of the big band, among them trombonists Scott Whitfield and Francisco Torres, tenor saxophonists/flautists Rob Hardt, and Brian Clancy and trumpeter Carl Saunders. Collectively, this is Latin jazz at its most striking and is a fitting tribute to an exceptional musician who is clearly held in very high regard by many.
Carol Robbins Taylor Street (Jazzcats JCTS 109)
Only rarely has the harp appeared in jazz, and on those occasions it has seldom been convincing. Carol Robbins is one of the few exceptions, delivering performances that are rhythmically strong and melodically engaging. All the tracks here are Carol’s own compositions and are varied in form. While Grey River is a pleasing ballad, as is Smooth Ride, mostly Carol favors medium tempo pieces, some in waltz time, Full Circle and The Chill, others with a mainstream jazz feel with an occasional touch of the blues The Flight, Trekker and The Local. Carol is joined here by Billy Childs, piano and Fender Rhodes, Bob Sheppard, tenor saxophone and clarinet, and Larry Koonse, guitar (these four with Carol being members of Childs’ Jazz Chamber Ensemble); Darek Oles, bass, and Gary Novak, drums (these two being Carol’s regular rhythm section); and Curtis Taylor, trumpet, and Ben Shepherd, electric bass. The many soloists display invention and skill, the ensemble passages showing how attuned each of these musicians is to the others. Historically, jazz harp was heard from Adele Girard, Caspar Reardon, Dave Snell, Dorothy Ashby and Corky Hale; and today Lori Andrews, Zeena Parkins and Deborah Henson-Conant. Carol Robbins is certainly worthy of being included in in this distinguished company.
Brent Gallaher Moving Forward (V&B GAL-B-0003)
Especially well known in Cincinnati where he is a mainstay of the local jazz scene, tenor saxophonist Brent Gallaher here leads his quintet through an engaging selection of contemporary jazz. Among the pieces played are Brent’s own Serendipity and Moving Forward, Kim Pensyl’s Big Sur, Gratitude and Cycle, and Fred Hersch’s Rain Waltz. The other musicians in Brent’s group are trumpeter Alex Pope Norris (whose No Apparent Reason is also heard), pianist Dan Karlsberg (composer of Cesar), bassist Aaron Jacobs and drummer Anthony Lee. Reflective music, painting aural images of people and places, this is a good example of today’s jazz performed by a new generation of instrumentalists with much to say and to in so doing ensure that the music goes on.
Little Johnny Rivero Music In Me (Truth Revolution TRR 022)
A highly respected and sought-after percussionist, Puerto Rican-born Little Johnny Rivero has long been resident in New York. Among the musicians with whom he has worked and sometimes recorded are Eddie Palmieri, Dr Lonnie Smith, and Carlos “Patata” Valdes. On this, Little Johnny’s second album as leader, he is joined by Brian Lynch, trumpet, featured on Afro-Rykan Thoughts, Louis Fouché, alto saxophone, on Bombazúl, Zaccai Curtis, piano, Luques Curtis, bass, and drummer Ludwig Alfonso, drums, as well as several guests. Trumpeter Jonathan Powell is on four tracks, including Little Giants and Alambique, trombonist Conrad Herwig on Mr. L.P., vocalist Natalie Fernandez on Palmieri, Much Respect. As might be expected, the rhythmic underpinning is exceptional, not only by Little Johnny but also by drummer Ludwig Afonso as well as percussionists Luisito Quintero and especially Anthony Carrillo. Exhilarating music that will have wide appeal.
For more on Marcello Pellitteri contact Holly Cooper at Mouthpiece Music; for Brent Fischer & the Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band, Carol Robbins, Brent Gallagher and Little Johnny Rivero go to Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services, who also represent guitarist Brian Kastan whose new double album, Roll The Dice On Life (BKR 101), has just been released.
These albums can be found at most walk-in and on-line stores, including Amazon.
November 2, 2016
Remembering . . .
(20 December 1947 – 8 November 2013)
. . . and . . .
Remembrance Day 11 November
to donate <<< British Legion >>> click here