Jazz CD Reviews – August 2013

August 20, 2013

Tom Kennedy Just Play! (Capri 74122-2)

Crisp, authoritative playing from a stellar group of post-bop musicians whose collaboration here demonstrates their mutual understanding. The members of the group, all with significant connections to leading names on today’s jazz and improvised music scenes, are frequently leaders of groups yet comfortably subordinate their skills to Tom Kennedys concept. Beside him in the rhythm section, Tom has pianist Renee Rosnes, guitarist Mike Stern, and drummer Dave Weckl, while the horns on hand are trumpeter Tom Hagans, trombonist John Allred, and tenor saxophonists George Garzone and Steve Wirts, as well as guest guitarist Lee Ritenour. tom-kThe admirable choice of repertoire includes popular standards such as Victor Young’s The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, and Cole Porter’s What Is This Thing Called Love?, but mostly the music heard here is drawn from jazz standards by Duke Ellington, In A Sentimental Mood, Cedar Walton, Bolivia, Sonny Rollins, Airegin, Dave Brubeck, In Your Own Sweet Way, among others. Throughout, the album is filled with imaginative solos as one after another the individuals are encouraged by the musical thoughts of their fellows into potent forays through their own imaginative improvisations. Mostly, mid-tempo bouncy numbers are performed although there are one or two brisker moments and some mellow ballad moments although even here there is admirable heat. Fine contemporary jazz with wide appeal.

 

Mark Masters Everything You Did (Capri 74123-2)

For this engaging album, Mark Masters has gathered around him a large group of like-minded musicians to perform his arrangements of music composed by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen for Steely Dan. Although originally written for and performed by rock musicians, subtle hints of jazz potential were apparent and it is upon these that Mark has based his ideas, which he has developed under the auspices of the American Jazz Institute of which he is president. Mark has chosen his collaborators with care and the result is exceptional music expertly played. mark-mAssembled for the date are trumpeters Tim Hagans, Louis Fasman, Les Lovitt, French horn player Stephanie O’Keefe, trombonists Les Benedict, Dave Ryan, Ryan Dragon, reed players Billy Harper, Don Shelton, John Mitchell, Gene Cipriano, Gary Smulyan, Brian Williams, bassist Hamilton Price, drummer Peter Erskine, vibraphone player Brad Dutz. Also on hand, for one track each, are French horn player Sonny Simmons, trombonist Dave Woodley, and alto saxophonists Oliver Lake and Gary Foster, while vocalist Anna Mjöll is present on two tracks. There are many strong thoughtful solos that build upon the notable ensemble playing and throughout it is evident how much at ease are all the players in the expertly-crafted arrangements Mark Masters has provided for this date.

 

Lucy Smith Autumn In Augusta (LMS 1263)

This entertaining and all-too short sample of Lucy Smith’s work finds her digging deeply into the roots of black music. Chicago born and bred, Lucy’s repertoire of choice reflects her work as music director with her home town’s Fourth Presbyterian Church and in performance at theatrical ventures at Goodman, Park West and Steppenwolf. Drawing on gospel and regular church music as well as the blues, Lucy imbues her singing with a vital understanding of core elements of jazz. Singing with a strong, tough-edged vocal sound, Lucy presents Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You (and Ludwig Van B. never sounded groovier), Wayfaring Stranger, How Can I Keep From Singing, House Of The Rising Sun, and she closes with Leroy Carr’s How Long, How Long Blues. Accompanied here by pianist Marcin Fahmy, bassist Junius Paul, and drummer Michael Caskey, Lucy’s committed take on familiar songs refreshes the music and makes the listener long for more. lucysmithI think that this may be Lucy’s first release since 2006’s Movin’ On; hopefully, there will not be another long wait before the next. Surely there is a label somewhere looking for someone with this kind of voice. And there is more to Lucy Smith than just singing; she also composes and has written and performed for the feature film Hannah Free and the documentary Wake Up Black.

 

Nicky Schrire Space and Time (NXS CD 10)

A new name to me is Nicky Schrire, a young singer-songwriter who is starting to make a name for herself internationally. Not really surprising, because her life so far takes in at least three continents. Nicky was born in London to South African parent and was raised from age 5 in the RSA. There, she studied music, playing saxophones in school big bands. But she was more interested in singing and composing and by the time that she uprooted (again) to live in New York, she was already developing a distinctive approach to the standards, and a decidedly personal style of songwriting.nicky This is Nicky’s second album (her first had her singing with a large group) and she sings songs against the scaled-down background of a pianist. In this role she has cast three musicians: Fabian Almazan, Gerald Clayton and Gil Goldstein, each on four tracks. The standards here are You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You, Someone To Watch Over Me, Say It Isn’t So and I Wish You Love and she also draws from latterday pop (George Harrison’s Here Comes The Sun and Massive Attack’s Teardrop) and from South Africa (Victor Ntoni’s Sellyana). To all of these, Nicky brings an introspective feel, searching the lyrics for their underlying tales of melancholy and lost love. Her own compositions, of which there are five, are, if anything, even more melancholic. Nicky Schrire has a gentle vocal sound, the word ‘wistful’ is used a lot in publicity and it’s hard to argue with that choice.

 

These albums are available at most stores, including Amazon. More information can be found on the sites of each of these artists where linked; additionally look for Lucy Smith on Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services website; more on Tom Kennedy, Mark Masters and Nicky Schrire can be found through Braithwaite & Katz Communications and also on the Capri Records site.

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