Jazz CD Reviews – mid-May 2015
May 15, 2015
The Cunninghams São Paulo Lights (NH 8416)
This fine album brings both sorrow and joy. The sorrow is because this is one of the last recordings made by Don and Alicia Cunningham before Alicia’s death in December 2014. The joy comes from the music as this exceptional vocal duo joins forces with the Elvaldo Soares Quartet during a 2012 visit to Brazil. The four instrumentalists, leading lights of the richly varied São Paulo music scene, are pianist Elvaldo Soares, guitarist Cesar Lopes, bassist Lito Robledo, and drummer Douglas Andrade. Experts in Brazil’s national music, they are also experienced jazzmen. Among the songs heard here are some from the Latin and the jazz repertoires as well as standards. They include Anos Dourados, by Antonio Carlos Jobim-Chico Buarque de Holanda, Peter & Paul, Eumir Deodato, Morning, Clare Fischer, Love Vibrations, Horace Silver, My Ship, Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin, and More Than You Know, William Rose-Edward Eliscu-Vincent Youmans. From soulful ballads to breakneck bebop by way of rhythmic Braziliana, the vocal duo is center stage throughout with their contrasting sound and style blending superbly: Alicia’s coolly poised, Don’s urgently edgy. Adding to the rhythmic drive of the quartet, Don is heard playing conga drums on some tracks, while on the closing track, São Paulo Lights, Roberto Sion plays flute and reeds. Lively and hugely entertaining, this is one to savor. The album might take some finding but do try; it is well worth the effort and you will surely agree that the duo had earned the acronym SJVP by which they were known: Super Jazz Vocal Pair.
For more on The Cunninghams, see my article in the June 2015 issue of Jazz Journal.
Joshua Breakstone 2nd Avenue (Capri 74137-2)
Bringing new life not only to some familiar music but also to the concept of ‛chamber jazz’, guitarist Joshua Breakstone presents this new release. Subtitled The Return Of The Cello-Quartet, this admirable set features not only Joshua’s fleet and deceptively simple-sounding lines but also cellist Mike Richmond, bassist Lisle Atkinson, and drummer Andy Watson. All four musicians play with skill, ingenuity and are very much like-minded in their approach. This is collective music making where the overall concept takes precedence over individuals. That said, the solos by the individual members of the group are all highly effective and vividly display their improvisational abilities. Among the music heard here are standards, I Wish I Knew and The Lamp Is Low; and jazz works, among which are Dexter Gordon’s Evergreenish, Cannonball Adderley’s Home, and Lee Konitz’s Thingin’. There are also two originals, one each my Lisle and Joshua. As a fine example of the qualities of musicianship these four men bring to their work, the (doubtless surprising) inclusion of I’m An Old Cowhand should be heard. Melodically, this is embedded in the subconscious of many and to hear it revived and reinvigorated with such sparkling wit and eloquence is a real joy.
For more on Joshua Breakstone contact Braithwaite & Katz ([email protected])
Michelle Lordi Drive (Creeper Music)
Michelle Lordi is a singer worth hearing again and again. She is a young woman, yet throughout this album displays maturity in the manner in which she presents songs, which are mostly standards. Among these songs are You’re My Thrill, Imagination, My Ship, I Fall In Love Too Easily and (I Don’t Stand) A Ghost Of A Chance. A clear, distinctive vocal sound marks Michelle’s work and it is a delight to hear her display care and understanding of the intent of the composers and lyricists. Choosing to stay close to the original forms in which the songs were cast, she colors them with subtle touches of phrasing that make them fresh and appropriate for today. There is a sophisticated elegance in Michelle’s approach but not one that distances her, instead it makes the listener eager to draw closer to share the experience. Michelle is accompanied by pianist Tom Lawton (Orrin Evans on three tracks), tenor saxophonist Larry McKenna, bassist Madison Rast, and drummer Dan Monaghan.
David Berkman Old Friends And New Friends (Palmetto PM2177)
With this new release, pianist David Berkman also displays his skill as a composer. He is clearly a listener, demonstrating this by writing music that effectively showcases the individual talents of the musicians with whom he is working. This music ranges through intimate moods, of which Psalm is an example, through lively swinging pieces, Up Jump Ming, to exhilarating blues-ish romps, No Blues No Really No Blues. David’s gifts as a soloist are similarly evident, but here he is primarily a team player and quite a team it is. With David are bassist Linda Oh (a member of his current quartet), drummer Brian Blade, and saxophonists Dayna Stephens (also in his quartet), playing soprano & tenor, Billy Drewes, soprano & alto, and Adam Kolker, soprano, alto & tenor (the last named also playing clarinet and bass clarinet). Brian Blade has worked with David from time to time over the years although not as often as both might have liked, given their separately busy schedules as bandleaders. Nevertheless, their musical affinity is evident throughout this fine set and Brian’s subtly understated propulsion is a highlight. Contemporary music-making of a very high order that will delight existing fans and should attract many newcomers.
For more on David Berkman contact Braithwaite & Katz ([email protected])
Roger Davidson Live At Caffè Vivaldi Volume 2 (Soundbrush SR 4002)
This second volume of music recorded at Caffè Vivaldi by Roger Davidson presents a set of his own compositions (there is one piece by Jobim). Released on Soundbrush (Roger’s own label), it is filled with delights. Although an eclectic musician, Roger has a very special affinity with the music of Brazil and this is vividly demonstrated here as he and his trio dance through the timeless rhythms of that land. On the first volume recorded at this venue, Roger played duets with bassist Pablo Aslan who is here again for three tracks, the rest of the set having bassist David Finck, with drummer Adriano Santos underpinning the music with an infectious beat. Over the years the musical links between Brazil and jazz have become ever stronger and Roger Davidson can take much credit for the part he has played and continues to play in this meeting of musical minds.
Perry Beekman S’Wonderful (own label)
For this new set of standards, singer-guitarist Perry Beekman is again joined by his regular musical companions, pianist Peter Tomlinson and bassist Lou Pappas. On their previous set, reviewed in April 2014, the trio played the music of Rodgers and Hart while here it is the work of George and Ira Gershwin on which they focus their respectful attention. George was deeply influenced by jazz in the 1920s and 1930s, and this is reflected in his compositions and correspondingly his themes were immediately picked up by musicians of the day and in every succeeding decade. Here, Perry’s arrangements retain the melodic delights of the songs, while allowing moments for improvised solos. George’s brother, Ira, also responded to contemporary trends in popular music and his lyrics display wit, ingenuity, poetic charm and wistful longing. Heard here are many of the Gershwins’ timeless wonders, among them Fascinating Rhythm, I Got Rhythm, How Long Has This Been Going On?, I’ve Got A Crush On You, and Someone To Watch Over Me.
For more on Perry Beekman see his site.
Most of these albums are available at Amazon.