Jazz and Other CD Reviews – April 2016
April 5, 2016
Darren English Imagine Nation (Hot Shoe HSW 109)
Making his debut as leader here is the exciting young South African trumpet player, Darren English who is now resident in Atlanta, Georgia. Here, Darren and his collaborators perform an interesting mix of standards, including a deeply introspective Body And Soul, classics from the jazz repertoire, a sparkling version of Dizzy Gillespie’s Bebop, as well as four of Darren’s originals. Labels are misleading, but if pressed I would say that it is post-bop mainstream – most importantly it is exhilarating. Three of the originals are part of a suite dedicated to Nelson Mandela, although they are presented separately here. Darren’s trumpet lines are graceful, he states the original melodies with engaging simplicity before moving into thoughtful and often driving improvisations. He is ably supported throughout by the trio of Kenny Banks, Jr., piano, Billy Thornton, bass, and Chris Burroughs, drums. Tenor saxophonist Greg Tardy joins him on three titles; these are two parts of the Mandela suite and Bullet In The Gunn, one of Darren’s originals. Vocalist Carmen Bradford is heard with a very attractive take on Skylark and on a fast What A Little Moonlight Can Do (To You), which also has good solos from bass and drums. Fellow trumpeters Russell Gunn and Joe Grandsen are also on hand, particularly excitingly so on Ray Noble’s Cherokee, which ends the album in fine style. An exceptionally talented and commanding young musician who will undoubtedly have a great future.
Kat Parra Songbook Of The Américas (JazzMa JMR 1005)
Always adventurous yet simultaneously wholly accessible, Kat Parra is a highly talented and very gifted musician. As the album title states, here she sings a selection of songs that draws upon the music of many parts of the continent. Among the songs are jazz pieces, Eddie ‛Cleanhead’ Vinson’s Four and Charlie Parker’s Au Privave, to both of which Kat has supplied lyrics (thus becoming Ever More and Wouldn’t It Be Sweet) and Betty Carter’s Please Do Something; some familiar songs from the popular repertoire, Meredith Willson’s Till There Was You and Bob Merrill’s Mambo Italiano; and songs from Peru, María Landó, Cuba, Viente Años, Argentina, Como La Cigarro and Mexico, Bésame Mucho. In addition to writing lyrics to the music of others, Kat also arranges, along with Aaron Germaine, Murray Low, David Pinto and others. The lyric for Dame La Mano is a poem by Gabriela Mistral, for which Kat has composed the music. All of these songs, familiar and lesser known, are sung with flair and ingenuity, always presenting a personal take but remaining true to the music’s origins. Singing with clarity and subtle drive, Kat turns all of these songs into vibrant demonstrations of her artistic skill. She is joined here by several musicians from the Bay Area, where she is based, among them being pianist Murray Low, trumpeter John Worley, trombonist Wayne Wallace, and bassist Marc van Wageningen. Adding to the atmosphere are Latin percussionists as well as players of flute and bandoneón. Also heard are fellow singers Patti Cathcart (along with guitarist Tuck Andress), María Márquez and Nate Pruitt. Altogether this is a delightful journey, seeing old favorites with new eyes and finding new sights to visit again.
Ehud Asherie Shuffle Along (Blue Heron)
Very much a musician of today, pianist Ehud Asherie has taken an unusual step for his twelfth album in drawing all the music from a barely remembered Broadway musical from the early 1920s. Although the show, Shuffle Along, might be beyond the recall of many, it is in fact important, chiefly because it was the first all-black musical to play on Broadway. All-black because not only was the cast African American, so too were the songwriters. They were lyricist Noble Sissle and composer Eubie Blake. What is especially interesting about the songs is that because they were written as the 1910s rolled into the 20s they are not written in a style that is heavily influenced by jazz although the ‛new’ music is noticeably hovering in the wings. At the time, Blake was only 24 years old, and perhaps because of his youth neither was he overly influenced by those earlier forms of popular music that were being edged aside, although here and there can be heard hints of then contemporary ragtime, a piano style he had mastered. As the lyrics are not heard their true melodic value can be more fully appreciated and it is striking how fresh they sound, especially when played with great sympathy by Ehud. Most famous of all Eubie’s songs is I’m Just Wild About Harry, heard twice, the second occasion being in waltz-time, which allows Ehud to reveal its considerable melodic charm. This is a remarkably durable song, turning up in the early 1950s as the theme song for Harry S Truman’s presidential campaign. Among the other songs, much less often heard, are Everything Reminds Me Of You, Bandana Days and Gypsy Blues. A particularly attractive song is the melodic and reflective Love Will Find A Way, with which Ehud closes the set. Very well played, with technical expertise allied with understanding and warmth and a jazz improvisor’s intelligence, this should appeal to all who love piano music.
Beside the point, I know, but I can’t resist quoting Eubie Blake when interviewed in 1983 on the occasion of what was said to be his 100th birthday (actually his 96th): “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would’ve taken better care of myself.”
Please note that the cover of the copy reviewed differs slightly from that shown above.
Phyllis Blanford Edgewalker (independent)
Having lived for some years in Europe, Phyllis Blanford returned to America around 2000 and since then has established a reputation for heartfelt and soulful performances. Her chosen repertoire draws upon many aspects of popular music. Some of the songs are standards, Night And Day, You Don’t Know What Love Is, Come Rain Or Come Shine, and some from fellow singers, Carmen Lundy’s Blue Woman and Good Morning Kiss, and Abbey Lincoln’s Throw It Away. Phyllis singing style is relaxed, her appreciation and interpretation of the lyrics intense. On this release, the singer is accompanied by a fine selection of jazz instrumentalists, the core trio of Ted Brancato, keyboards, Kenny Davis, bass, Winard Harper, drums, and saxophonist Don Braden, trumpeter James Gibbs, guitarist Vic Juris, trombonists Vincent Gardner and Jason Jackson, percussionist Mayra Casales, and vibraphonist Stefon Harris. An interesting and enjoyable singer who will surely and deservedly be heard much more widely over the coming years.
Danny Green Altered Narratives (OA2 22128)
Although all the music heard here is composed by pianist Danny Green, everything is redolent of the rich history of jazz piano. Danny’s musical career has ranged widely, including grunge rock, ska, Cuban son and especially the music of Brazil. He has brought all of these elements into jazz with seemingly effortless ease, in the process substantially broadening his audience appeal. Danny leads his trio (Justin Grinnell, bass, Julien Cantelm, drums) on a musical journey that draws upon the blues (Chatter From All Sides, I Used To Hate The Blues), as well as classical form (Second Chance, Katabasis, Porcupine Dreams), with other elements from Danny’s eclectic musical background. On those last three named tunes the trio is joined by a string quartet, Antoine Silverman, Max Moston, violins, Chris Cardona, viola, Anja Wood, cello). This very attractive album will appeal to all lovers of jazz piano.
Cristina Braga Whisper (ENJA ENJ 9617-2)
Brazilian harpist/singer Cristina Braga has built an audience far outside her homeland for her notable performances of the music of Brazil. Here, she plays and sings a selection works by composers such as Dorival Caymmi (É Doce Morrer No Mar), João Donato (A Rã) and Baden Powell Samba Triste (with Billy Blanco) and Whisper On A Prelude (Cristina Braga and Alberto Rosenblit). Here she is accompanied by The Modern Samba Quartet (Jesse Sadoc, trumpet, Arthur Dutra, vibraphone, Ricardo Medeiros, bass, Claudio Wilner, percussion, Mauro Martins, drums) and the Brandenburger Symphoniker. There is also a guest appearance by guitarist/singer Dado Villa-Lobos, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça’s (Meditation), sung here in the French and English versions (Eddy Marney and Norman Gimbel respectively). Although her vocal range is not wide, Cristina’s sound is gently soothing and suits the material well. Instrumentally, she is a gifted player displaying her talent on Mot D’Amour and especially Canto Triste. This concert was recorded live at the Great Hall of the Brandenburger Theater in Brandenburg.
For more on these artists go to their sites, highlighted above, and to Jazz Promo Services (for Phyllis Blanford, Cristina Braga), Braithwaite & Katz (for Ehud Asherie, Danny Green), and Mouthpiece Music (for Darren English, Kat Parra).
Other informative and entertaining sites to visit:-
And the place to go for albums is Amazon.