Jazz CD Reviews – early June 2016
June 6, 2016
Compared to the countless alto and tenor saxophone players in jazz, many of them distinguished and spotlit, those musicians who chose other members of the saxophone family often play in the shadows. I suspect that most of us would have a hard time producing an off-the cuff list of baritone saxophonists that reached far into double figures, while listing those who played bass or C-Melody saxophone would certainly be much harder. (I managed only one of each – Harry Gold, who was not a jazz man but a dance band leader, and Frankie Trumbauer, who would be on everyone’s list.)
And then there is the soprano saxophone. Of course, many saxophonists have played soprano as a second instrument to their usual clarinet or alto or tenor but it has been principle instrument for very few. Even Bob Wilber and Kenny Davern, whose Soprano Summit brought such pleasure to the mainstream of the 1970s, at other times respectively played alto and clarinet extensively. But back to making lists – pretty nearly everyone reading this will instantly note the name of Sidney Bechet, the grand master of the soprano, but might well slow down a little after having added the names of Steve Lacy and Jane Ira Bloom. It is a new album by the last named that has prompted these thoughts, although references to other players of the soprano saxophone is unfair because her great skill and profound musicianship are virtually unparalleled as is the enormous contribution to jazz she has made, and continues to make, as performer, composer and educator.
Jane Ira Bloom Early Americans (Outline OTL 142)
On this new release Jane Ira Bloom performs twelve of her own compositions, themes that range widely, touching upon aspects of America’s history, geography and culture. Among the performances heard here are a lively Song Patrol, the darkly dramatic Dangerous Times, the deeply introspective Other Eyes, an atmospheric Mind Gray River, and an adventurous and exciting Gateway To Progress. Throughout, the sound of Jane’s saxophone is rich, drawing from the instrument’s full range and is emotionally most satisfying. Jane’s collaborators here are bassist Mark Helias and drummer Bobby Previte, both of whom are wholly attuned to the leader’s intentions and provide superb support, blending where required, soloing with flair when called upon. The closing track, the only non-original, is Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s Somewhere. Played by Jane alone, its spaciousness and hint of melancholy matches the atmosphere that imbues every moment of this set. Altogether, a lovely album that brings pleasure both intellectually and emotionally.
Lou Caputo Uh Oh! (Jazzcat 47 JC 1825)
The soprano saxophone is also heard on this album led by Lou Caputo, who additionally plays flute, alto and mostly baritone saxophone. Leading his 12-piece New York-based Not So Big Band, on this, their third CD, Lou presents an admirable selection of compositions by several leading jazz artists. These include Wayne Shorter, Black Nile, Mary Lou Williams, Busy, Busy, Busy, Chick Corea, Guijira, Jack DeJohnette, Festival, Oliver Nelson, Stolen Moments, and Dexter Gordon, Fried Bananas. The arrangers are Geoffrey Burke, Jason Ingram, Mike Carubia, Chris White, Chris Rinaman, Ryan Krewer, Bill Crow, Lyn Welshman, Bill Whited and Virginia Mayhew and their spacious charts offer ample opportunities for the excellent soloists among those gathered for this date. The full band Lou directs comprises John Eckert, Dave Smith (trumpet and flugelhorn), Jason Ingram (trombone), Dale Turk (tuba), Geoffrey Burke (alto and flute) Virginia Mayhew (tenor), Don Stein (piano), Bill Crow (bass), Mike Campenni sharing with Rudy Petschauer (drums), Warren Smith (vibraphone), Eddie Montalvo (conga) and Leopoldo Fleming (percussion). The many solos are supported by crisp ensemble work, perhaps not too surprising given that Lou has had this band for about a decade. The mood is rich and varied, with a lively Latin jazz sound on Festival, an appropriately thoughtful Stolen Moments, Bill Crow’s irresistibly toe-tapping News From Blueport, and a romantic take on Tadd Dameron’s If You Could See Me Now. So much to enjoy here and lucky you if you should live in the New York area and catch Lou Caputo’s band live.
Jim Self ¡Yo! (Basset Hound BHR 114-2)
Long known as a studio musician in the film and television studios of Los Angeles, tuba player Jim Self has also made numerous albums as leader of jazz and Latin groups. The group he leads here, on his 13th album, is the Tricky Lix Latin Jazz Band, a name that hides neither its style or intentions. Much of the music of Latin America is for dancing and the forms heard here include mambo, For Charlie and Old Arrival, danzon cha cha, Poinciana, and bolero, Quiero Llegar. The musicians joining Jim here are Ron Blake (trumpet, flugelhorn), Francisco Torres (trombone), Rob Hardt (tenor and soprano saxophones, flute), Andy Langham (piano), Rene Camacho (bass), and percussionists Joey De Leon, Giancarlo Anderson and George Ortiz, while the arrangements are the work of Jim, Francisco, who between them also wrote five originals, Curt Berg and Bill Cunliffe. There are numerous solos, notably Rob’s soprano on Sweetest Blue, Ron’s trumpet on Encognito and Cal’s Pals, Francisco’s trombone on Quiero Llegar on which Andy’s piano is also heard. Some of Jim’s solos are on tuba and others on the mellow-toned fluba, which looks rather like a Brobdingnagian flugelhorn. Propelled by a lively bass and percussion, the air of lightness and joy that pervades this set will bring pleasure to many.
Terceto Kali Terceto Kali (Jason McGuire Music)
Leading his dynamic trio, Terceto Kali, Jason McGuire “El Rubio” is not only a notable jazz guitarist, but also a master of flamenco. His combining of these two styles is marked both by its rarity in popular music and his striking skill and ingenuity. An important aspect in much of flamenco is its dramatic intensity and that is especially notable here on pieces such as Zardoz and Ratones Ciegos, while the form’s inherent romanticism is presented on Romance. All of the music heard here is composed by Jason and reflects just a few of the numerous stylistic variations that lie within flamenco. Different dance styles are also heard with flamenco’s percussive nature apparent as drummer Marlon Aldana conveys the power of the flamenco dancer. Among the dance music heard are the tango, Ratones Ciegos, the rondeña (a form of fandango, Contratiempo, and the rumba, Mira Mira, Jason demonstrating in all of them his feeling for jazz. The third member of the trio, bassist Paul Martin Sounder, is similarly attuned to the wide stylistic range of the musical origins. Storytelling is a significant aspect of flamenco, not only through dance and the music of the guitar but also by way of a singer and this is displayed on some selections by José Cortés. Superb musicianship and always fascinating music make this an exceptional album, reflecting as it does the manner in which Jason McGuire, from Texas, has so thoroughly assimilated the traditions of Andalusia and it should appeal to lovers of music from many genres and countries.
Jocelyn Michelle Time To Play! (Chicken Coup CCP 7024)
The Hammond B3 organ has a much admired and respected place in jazz and Jocelyn Michelle, a relatively new name on this particular scene, is a valuable addition to the instrument’s roll of honor. Playing with verve and driving swing on mid- and up-tempo pieces and thoughtful depth on ballads, Jocelyn vividly displays her musical skills and a varied selection that includes six of her originals. Playing piano from very early childhood, at the University of Miami School of Music she played guitar and also studied commercial aspects of the music business before concentrating on the organ and a career as a performer. Stylistically, there is here a wide range that encompasses Latin and gospel, rock and soul, all brought into jazz by Jocelyn and the front-rank artists with whom she collaborates. These are guitarists Bruce Forman on six tracks and John Rack on four (the latter being also Jocelyn’s life partner), saxophonists Doug Webb, five tracks, and Steve Mann, three, trumpeter Stan Martin, five, drummer Sammy K, all ten tracks, and percussionist Brad Dutz, three. Also heard on one track each is trumpeter Andrea Lindborg and vocalists Gina Saputo and Regina Leonard Smythe. The four non-original tracks are Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man, Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther Theme, Gato Barbieri’s Last Tango In Paris, and the Jay Livingston-Ray Evans standard Never Let Me Go. On one track, Sylvia’s Song, Jocelyn plays guitar and on another, The Loss, she plays piano but elsewhere it is the B3. Jocelyn Michelle is a jazz musician worthy of your attention and if you have the chance to see and hear her perform live you should certainly do so. She and John are now resident in Hawaii and if you cannot make dates there or the west coast of the mainland, then this album will be a lively alternative.
For more information on these musicians and albums see the sites highlighted above and also Jim Eigo’s Jazz Promo Services for Jane Ira Bloom, Lou Caputo and Jim Self and Mouthpiece Music for Jason McGuire/Terceto Kali and Jocelyn Michelle.
All albums are available at Amazon.