Jazz CD Reviews – April 2013
April 30, 2013
Rich Halley 4 Crossing The Passes (Pine Eagle 005)
On his latest release, Rich Halley and his regular quartet play an excellent selection of original compositions. Interestingly, these eleven pieces have been built upon the composer’s memories of a recent north-south trek he made across Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains. The music created forms metaphorical images of the mountain range, the musical language being Rich’s always effective styling that reflects the way in which jazz has developed through the post-bop era towards the frontiers of free jazz. Among the snapshots of rugged landscape are Traversing The Maze, The Spring Rains, Basin And Range and Rain, Wind And Hail. The other fine musicians are trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Carson Halley. (The last named is Rich’s son, who joined him on the trek, as did nephew Tim Binford.) Together for several years, the four musicians play with an enviable single-mindedness. This quality extends to four of the tracks that are joint compositions by the quartet: Looking West From West, Crossing The Passes, Acute Angles and Journey Across The Land. As always, Rich’s playing is commanding, hinting subtly at the great tradition of the more rugged jazz tenor saxophonists, such as Don Byas and David S. Ware, while retaining his individuality. Indeed, all four men display an enviable personal style that nevertheless conveys how much they have absorbed and uphold the great traditions of their respective traditions in jazz.
Rich Halley’s previous release, Back From Beyond, is featured on an earlier page (flick back to October 6, 2012 for details).
Laszlo Gardony Clarity (Sunnyside SSC 4014)
A leading figure in jazz education, Laszlo Gardony here develops an exceptional train of thought as he improvises a moving tribute to his parents whose deaths had only recently occurred. Born in Hungary, Laszlo started his musical journey with classical music, moved into rock and blues-based forms before taking the jazz path. This brought him to Berklee in 1983 as a student, following which he became a member of the faculty there. He began his recording career in 1989 and since then has made many live and recorded appearances, usually with a trio. (The other two members of his recent trio are most often bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel.) On this new release, however, in keeping with the highly personal nature of Laszlo’s thoughts at the time, this is a solo album. The music presented is in ten pieces, yet it forms a cohesive whole that while deeply personal to its creator draws in the listener who can then share in its beauty. As might be expected, Laszlo’s playing is flawless, at once delicate and strong, and filled throughout with skill and effortless charm.
Ana Alcaide La Cantiga Del Fuego (ARC Music EUCD 2417)
It is tempting for an outsider to speak of ‘Italian music’ or ‘Norwegian music’ or ‘Indian music’, yet it takes only a moment’s thought to realize how impossibly limiting this is. The foregoing remark is prompted by listening to the lovely music contained on this release. Ana Alcaide is Spanish and so is the music she performs, most of which she has also composed. Yet there is little that the ‘outsider’ might think of as typically Spanish. In part this is because Ana has drawn upon the musical tradition of Spain’s Sephardic Jews, music that in its turn was built upon the exile of these people and their endless journey to find a home. (This musical tradition has also attracted singer Kat Parra; for details of her album, Las Aventuras de ¡Pasión!, look back to August 1, 2012.) Another untypical aspect of this music is that to perform it Ana plays on a most unusual instrument, the nyckelharpa. This is a Swedish keyed fiddle played with a bow that originated perhaps as early as the 14th century. Ana came across this instrument while studying biology in Sweden and was captivated by its potential; it even looks daunting. The music is reflective, haunting, and evokes impressions of restless longing.
All these CDs can be found at many established sales points, among which is Amazon.