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
October 25, 2016
Alyssa Allgood Out Of The Blue (Jeru Jazz JJR-5-CD)
Among the many new young vocalists who happily label themselves as ‘jazz singers’ are just a few who truly deserve the title. Unquestionably, Alyssa Allgood is one of these few. Based in Chicago, she has gained acclaim locally and has also attracted attention further afield while studying, then working with mentors including Jay Clayton and Madeline Eastman, and taking part in the 2015 Shure Montreaux Jazz Voice Competition. Alyssa’s love of jazz is immediately apparent from her choice of material, which includes Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil, Hank Mobley’s Watch Me Walk Away (Dig Dis), Sam Rivers’ Beatrice, Joe Chambers Mirrors (all with lyrics by Alyssa), Only A Memory (Ceora) by Lee Morgan and Milton Suggs, Joe Henderson’s If, Horace Silver’s Peace, the Bobby Timmons-Jon Hendricks classic, Moanin’, as well as Noticing The Moment (Moment’s Notice) by John Coltrane, Peter Eldridge and Kim Nazarian. As the album title makes clear, the material and its originators are associated with the classic Blue Note label and that company’s ethos lies at the heart of Alyssa’s work. Indeed, all of the instrumentalists heard here are with the label today. These collaborators are saxophonist Chris Madsen, organist Dan Chase, guitarist Tim Fitzgerald, and drummer Matt Plaskota. All play with skill and the mutual empathy is apparent throughout, in ensemble, supporting the singer, as well as soloing with flair. The arrangements, by Alyssa and Dan, are crafted to allow ample space for inventive vocal and instrumental solos. Alyssa’s singing voice is light and true, she is rhythmically assured and has a clear understanding of the intentions of the originators of the music. As is apparent, most of this music began as instrumental pieces and in some instances Alyssa’s vocals follow the original solo lines. Vocalese is a difficult art, as is scat singing, but Alyssa displays her accomplishment in these areas. Not that these forms of jazz singing are overused; rather, they are blended into a wholly satisfying display of jazz singing. Contemporary in presentation, the blues are never far away; a comment that might also apply to Blue Note Records. Alyssa Allgood is a name to look out for and to remember.
Matthew Kaminski Live At Churchill Grounds (Chicken Coup CCP 7026)
Playing Hammond B3 organ, here Matthew Kaminski leads his quartet through a live date, recorded over two nights in Atlanta. Rounding out the quartet are Will Scruggs, tenor saxophone, Rod Harris Jr, guitar, and Chris Burroughs, drums, all of them playing with the spirit heard in Hammond-led groups of the past. Also featured here is vocalist Kimberly Gordon, who sings on If I Had You, I Love Being Here With You and So Danco Samba. Mixed in with the standards are pop songs, such as the Beach Boys’ Sail On Sailor, and jazz pieces, like Jimmy Smith’s Midnight Special, Duke Ellington’s Just Squeeze Me and It Shouldn’t Happen To A Dream, on both of which Kimberly sings, and Lou Donaldson’s Hot Dog. And then there’s the almost inevitable April In Paris, which started out as a popular song but gravitated into the world of the jazz organist by way of Wild Bill Davis (not forgetting Count Basie), here given a long workout by all five musicians. Throughout this album, the spotlight is mainly on Matthew and his solos are always interesting. So too are those by Will, playing with drive on the swingers and with sensitivity on ballads. A fine example of Rod’s playing comes on Jack McDuff’s A Real Goodun, which closes the album. A very entertaining occasion that swings from start to finish and leaves the listener wanting more. Speaking of which, this is Matthew’s third jazz release, the others being Swingin’ and Taking My Time. A footnote for those with a sporting inclination: Matthew has played organ for eight seasons at the home of the Atlanta Braves and has also released an album in this style.
Rebecca Dumaine Happy Madness (Summit DCD 687)
Singing with obvious delight in the material, here Rebecca Dumaine presents a selection that draws mainly upon the music of earlier times. Among the songs are standards but there a few from more recent times, all of them given a fresh outlook yet their treatment shows her respect. The songs include Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke’s Like Someone In Love, Harry Warren and Mack Gordon’s The More I See You, Marvin Fisher’s Destination Moon, Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer’s I’m Old Fashioned, Joe Bushkin and Joe Devries’s Nobody Else But Me and Cole Porter’s It’s All Right With Me, while the album takes its title from the song by Antonio Carlo Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes (with Gene Lees’ lyrics). Providing admirable support for Rebecca is the Dave Miller Trio, a longtime association. With Dave on piano are Perry Thoorsill, bass, and Bill Belasco, drums (Dave is Rebecca’s father). The trio is augmented on some tracks by guitarist Brad Beauthe and saxophonist Pete Cornell. Relaxed and happy music that is collectively a very pleasing set that will appeal to those who enjoy hearing good songs sung and played well by straightahead jazz performers who clearly admire this music. For details of an earlier album by Rebecca, The Consequence Of You, see my post in late-May 2015.
Joshua Breakstone 88 (Capri 74144-2)
Tributes paid by a jazz artist to others are by no means unusual, but this set from guitarist Joshua Breakstone takes an intriguing approach. One original by Joshua apart, the music heard here is written by jazz pianists and the fact that there is no pianist in the group means that an alternate view is taken of the music. Thus, aspects that might, perhaps, have been unobserved by the many fans of the composers concerned are revealed. Among the composer-pianists featured by Joshua are Cedar Walton, Black, Tadd Dameron, If You Could See Me Now, Lennie Tristano, Lennie’s Pennies, and Mal Waldron, Soul Eyes. Joshua’s collaborators here, collectively named The Cello Quartet, are cellist Mike Richmond, bassist Lisle Atkinson, and drummer Andy Watson. Although Joshua is the principal soloist, all make an important contribution and this is very much a collaborative venture. It is worth noting Joshua’s comment regarding the reason why he has chosen to perform pieces composed for (and at) the piano: “It’s merely the expression of one guitarist’s love and admiration for the instrument and those who happen to play the hell out of it and use it as a vehicle for composition.” Altogether, this a rewarding and entertaining album that will appeal to many.
Mili Bermejo & Dan Greenspan Arte del Duo (Ediciones Pentagrama APCD 707)
The music performed by this duo has an appealing freshness, which is, perhaps, surprising as singer Mili Bermejo and bassist Dan Greenspan have worked together for a quarter century. Mili’s early years saw her move from Buenos Aires to Mexico City to Boston, where she has taught at Berklee College of Music since 1984; Dan started out in New Haven before moving to Boston where he became an in-demand session musician and more recently the couple have settled in New Hampshire. The music heard here ranges widely both stylistically and geographically with a handful of originals by Mili as well as songs by composers from Mexico, Armenia, Argentina, Uruguay and France. Melodically and rhythmically rich, this music is sung and played with emotional intensity and considerable technical expertise and will have widespread appeal.
Al Strong Love Strong Volume 1 (independent)
On his debut album, trumpeter Al Strong displays his technical skill and also his awareness of the paths taken by jazz in recent years. Although a relatively new name on the contemporary jazz scene, he plays with mature confidence. Most of the music played here has been composed by Al and there is an emotional depth to the music, a quality not always present nowadays. There are also some well known themes, including Kenny Barron’s Voyage, Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s My Favorite Things. Joining Al here are several musicians, some of whom also take solos, forming groups of different sizes. Among them are saxophonists Bluford Thompson and James ‘Saxmo’ Gates, keyboard players Ryan Hanseler and Lovell Bradford, and drummers Jeremy ‘Bean’ Clemons and Iahji Hampden. Contemporary jazz, played with sensitivity and always displaying an awareness of what has gone before.
Richard Sussman The Evolution Suite (Zoho ZM 201614)
For more on Alyssa Allgood, Matthew Kaminski, and Rebecca Dumaine contact Holly Cooper at Mouthpiece Music; for Mili Bermejo & Dan Greenspan and Joshua Breakstone contact Braithwaite & Katz ([email protected]); and for Al Strong and Richard Sussman go to Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services site.
Albums by these artists are available at the usual outlets, including Amazon.